Prosecutors made no mention of the slain 25-year-old’s race until the very end of the trial.
From the moment video footage of Ahmaud Arbery’s murder went viral on social media in May 2020, many viewers labeled it a lynching.
They concluded that racial animus guided Gregory McMichael, Travis McMichael, and William “Roddie” Bryan to pursue Arbery and shoot him without cause. For many who saw the video, that a Black man who was jogging down the street in the middle of the day was then cornered and shot dead by three white men unquestionably constituted a lynching motivated by the color of Arbery’s skin as he traveled through a mostly white suburb of Georgia.
Then there were other glaring elements. Bryan, who recorded the fatal encounter, told authorities that Travis McMichael, who pulled the trigger, called Arbery a racial slur after firing. One of the pickup trucks that the men used to chase Arbery featured a vanity license plate of the old Georgia state flag. The flag, flown from 1956 to 2001, prominently displayed the Confederate battle flag, which has come to be a symbol of the Lost Cause ideology that falsely holds the Civil War was not fought over slavery.
Systemic issues of racism loomed large over the case, too. The men were arrested 74 days after murdering Arbery, only after video of the shooting was leaked and went viral, and following days of protests.
Why did the arrests take so long? critics wondered. Body camera footage from the first responding officer on the scene on February 23, 2020, showed the officer tending to Travis...