President of the jury: the killers of Ahmaud Arbery showed “so much hatred”
ATLANTA (AP) — The black man who served as foreman of the jury that convicted three white men of federal hate crimes in the murder of Ahmaud Arbery said he believes the guilty verdicts show that if acts of racial violence were still happening in the United States, “we’re going in the right direction.
“Evil is evil and good is good,” Marcus Ransom told The New York Times in an interview published Tuesday. “No matter what it is, you have to have consequences. No one is above the law.”
Ransom, a 35-year-old social worker, was the only black man on the jury who spent a week in a Brunswick, Georgia, courtroom hearing the hate crimes case in U.S. District Court. Jurors deliberated less than four hours before finding each of the defendants guilty on all counts on February 22.
Father and son Greg and Travis McMichael armed themselves and used a pickup truck to chase Arbery, a 25-year-old black man, after spotting him running in their neighborhood on February 23, 2020. A neighbor, William ” Roddie” Bryan, joined the pursuit in his own truck and cellphone videotape of Travis McMichael blasting Arbery with a shotgun.
Ransom, who lives about three hours from coastal Glynn County where Arbery died and where the trial took place, said he was shocked by the graphic video that leaked online two months after the murder. Still, he said he didn’t pay much attention to the case before the trial because he had to deal with the death of his grandmother.
During the trial, federal prosecutors presented the jury with about two dozen racist text messages and social media posts, mostly from Travis McMichael and Bryan. Ransom said he was not shocked by the racial slurs used by the men.
“I experienced racism on different levels,” he said.
But Ransom said he cried when prosecutors showed a video Travis McMichael had shared online that mocked a young black boy dancing. He also shed tears in the jury box while having to watch police body camera footage of Arbery bleeding to the ground, shaking and panting, after the shooting. And he again wiped tears from his eyes after the verdicts were read and was asked to appear in court and confirm them.
Ransom said he was troubled by the indifference the McMichaels showed Arbery as he died on the street, and was stunned that Bryan joined them in pursuing a black man that Bryan later told police that he had never seen before and did not know why he was being chased.
“Just seeing that it was so much hate they had, not just for Ahmaud, but for other people of the black race,” Ransom said. “It was a lot to take in.”
None of the defendants testified in the hate crimes trial. Ransom said he watched each of the three defendants closely during the trial, looking for signs of remorse. He said he couldn’t find any.
When the case ended and the jury prepared to begin deliberations, Ransom said, the others quickly picked him to serve as foreman.
“No one has really expressed exactly why,” he said.
He said the deliberations were professional. No one argued that the McMichaels or Bryan were innocent, he said, and no one strongly disagreed that the evidence showed Arbery was hunted down and killed because he was black – a finding necessary to convict defendants of hate crimes.
The jury returned the hate crime convictions not quite three months after the McMichaels and Bryan were convicted of Arbery’s murder in Georgia state court. All three were sentenced to life in prison in the murder case, with no possibility of parole for the McMichaels.
U.S. District Court Judge Lisa Godbey Wood has yet to set a sentence in the federal case, where each defendant again faces a life sentence.