The Black man who served as foreman of the jury that convicted three White men of federal hate crimes in the killing of Ahmaud Arbery said he believes the guilty verdicts show that while acts of racial violence still occur in the U.S., “we’re moving in the right direction.” Marcus Ransom also said there were three moments during the trial that moved him to tears.
“Wrong is wrong and right is right,” Ransom told The New York Times in an interview published Tuesday. “No matter what it is, you’ve got to have consequences. No one is above laws.”
Ransom, a 35-year-old social worker, was the only Black man on the jury that 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 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 February 23, 2020. A neighbor, William “Roddie” Bryan, joined the pursuit in his own truck and recorded cellphone video of Travis McMichael blasting Arbery with a shotgun.
Ransom, who lives about three hours from coastal Glynn County where Arbery died and the trial was held, said he was shocked by the graphic video that leaked online two months after the slaying. Still, he said he did not pay much attention to the case prior to the trial because he had been dealing with the death of his grandmother.
During the trial, federal prosecutors walked the jury through roughly two dozen racist text messages and social media posts, mostly by Travis McMichael and Bryan. McMichael also allegedly advocated violence against Black people, while Bryan exchanged racist messages on Martin Luther King Jr. Day.
Ransom said he was not shocked by the racist slurs the men used.
“I’ve 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 on the ground, twitching and gasping, after the shooting. And he wiped tears from his eyes again after the verdicts were read and he was asked to stand in court and confirm them.
Ransom said he was disturbed by the indifference the McMichaels showed Arbery as he was dying in the street, and was stunned that Bryan had joined them to pursue a Black man whom Bryan later told police he had never seen before and did not know why he was being chased.
“Just seeing that it was so much hatred that they had, not only for Ahmaud, but to other people of the Black race,” Ransom said. “It was a lot to take in.”
None of the defendants testified at 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 found none.
When the case ended and the jury prepared to begin deliberations, Ransom said, the others quickly chose him to serve as foreman.
“No one really voiced exactly why,” he said.
He said deliberations were businesslike. No one argued that the McMichaels or Bryan were innocent, he said, and nobody strongly disagreed that the evidence showed Arbery was chased and killed because he was Black — a finding necessary to convict the defendants of hate crimes.
The jury returned the hate crime convictions not quite three months after the McMichaels and Bryan were found guilty of murdering Arbery by a Georgia state court. All three were sentenced to life in prison in the murder case, with no chance of parole for the McMichaels.
U.S. District Court Judge Lisa Godbey Wood has yet to schedule sentencing in the federal case, where each defendant again faces a potential life sentence.
Arbery’s mother, Wanda Cooper-Jones, told “CBS Mornings” in January that she rejected the idea of a plea deal because she wanted the men to stand trial for hate crimes.
“I think that the federal charges are just as important as the state charges and I think that they need to stand trial for those charges as well,” Cooper-Jones said.
“Ahmaud is a kid you cannot replace,” his father, Marcus Arbery, said outside the courthouse in January. “He was killed racially and we want 100% justice, not no half justice.”