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Biden says 'hard work' remains for racial justice in US after Arbery verdict

Vicente Contreras, a member of the Party for Socialism and Liberation, speaks at a US demonstration following the guilty verdict for the defendants in the trial of the killers of Ahmaud Arbery on November 24, 2021 in Atlanta, Georgia, US. (Via AFP)

President Joe Biden has said the United States still needs work to achieve equal justice as he hailed the conviction of three white Georgia men for the murder of African American Ahmaud Arbery.

"Ahmaud Arbery's killing -- witnessed by the world on video -- is a devastating reminder of how far we have to go in the fight for racial justice in this country," Biden said.

"While the guilty verdicts reflect our justice system doing its job, that alone is not enough," the US president noted.

"My administration will continue to do the hard work to ensure that equal justice under law is not just a phrase emblazoned in stone above the Supreme Court, but a reality for all Americans." 

On Wednesday, all three white men charged in the killing of Arbery, an unarmed 25-year-old black Muslim man, were convicted of murder by a jury in the state of Georgia. 

All three defendants were convicted of murder, aggravated assault, false imprisonment and criminal intent to commit a felony. They face a minimum sentence of life in prison with the possibility of parole. 

Travis McMichael, 35, who fatally shot Arbery, was convicted on all nine charges, including malice, murder and four counts of felony murder.

McMichael's father, Gregory McMichael, 65, was convicted on the remaining charges, including the felony murder counts. McMichael's neighbor, William "Roddie" Bryan, was also found guilty of three of the felony murder counts.

Prosecutors have said that they intend to seek life in prison without parole for the three defendants.

Arbery was spotted by McMichael who then pursued him in a Ford F-150 pickup. Bryan later joined the chase, which the prosecutor said lasted five minutes, in his Chevy Silverado truck. Travis McMichael approached Arbery with a shotgun and fatally shot him.

The gruesome murder became an emblem of racial injustice and white supremacy in the US after a graphic video of the killing was leaked online.

Lawyers for the men argued in court that the defendants acted in self-defense. However, in a rebuttal on Tuesday, lead prosecutor Linda Dunikoski said the men had no legal authority to confront Arbery.

"They don't have any authority to use verbal commands," Dunikoski said in his arguments. "This is a fellow citizen. This is another human being."

While Travis McMichael, fired the shots that killed Arbery, Dunikoski said that his father Gregory, 65, and Bryan, 52, are equally responsible for the killing.

The composition of the jury - with 11 white and one black member – had come under scrutiny with some observers saying it doesn't reflect the local community, which is 55% Black.

Arbery's name was added to those invoked in nationwide anti-racism protests in 2020 that erupted after the police killings of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, both of whom were Black.

"It's been a long fight. It's been a hard fight. But God is good," Arbery's mother, Wanda Cooper-Jones, said outside the courthouse. "He will now rest in peace."

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