Federal Hate Crime Trial Begins For Ahmaud Arbery's Killers

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The federal trial of the three men convicted of killing Ahmaud Arbery is scheduled to begin this week with the jury selection process underway on Monday (February 7).

The three defendants, Travis McMichael, Gregory McMichael, and William "Roddy" Bryan are facing federal hate crime and attempted kidnapping charges for the February 23, 2020 murder of Arbery who was jogging in a Georgia neighborhood.

The federal court proceedings come one month after the men were sentenced to life in prison on state murder charges. This trial will focus on if the crime was racially-motivated and whether Arbery's rights were violated as a result.

Federal prosecutor Deval Patrick told NPR that federal trials of this nature used to be a way to find justice if a local prosecutor failed to bring charges in a crime. This week, however, Patrick says the trial is of national importance to stand against racist behavior.

"In the most egregious examples, even if there had been a conviction in a state court, there's a national interest in there being federal consequences. And I think this is one of those cases," Patrick said.

It was months after the murder before a local prosecutor brought charges against the men. That prosecutor was voted out of office in November 2020 and now faces charges in the mishandling of the case.

Prior to the federal trial, the McMichaels entered a plea deal with federal prosecutors that Arbery's family says would have allowed them to choose a "preferred" federal facility to serve out a 30-year sentence.

The judge overseeing the case, Lisa Goodbey Wood, rejected the pleas stating that such parameters were too restrictive and went against the family's wishes.

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