Security for Arbery death trial cost taxpayers $1.08 million

A small group of civil rights activist and media wait outside the Glynn County Courthouse where a jury started deliberating the trial of Greg McMichael, his son, Travis McMichael, and a neighbor, William "Roddie" Bryan, Tuesday, Nov. 23, 2021, in Brunswick, Ga. The jury began deliberating Tuesday after hearing 10 days of testimony. (AP Photo/Stephen B. Morton)

The trial of three white men who chased and killed Ahmaud Arbery cost local taxpayers $1.08 million for security and other expenses related to the high-profile case, which sometimes drew large crowds to the courthouse but resulted in no violence.

Commissioners in coastal Glynn County, Georgia, said during a Tuesday meeting they spent the money on overtime and other costs stemming from having extra sheriff’s deputies, police and other public safety personnel on the clock during the five-week trial, The Brunswick News reported.

Father and son Greg and Travis McMichael armed themselves and pursued Arbery in a pickup truck after spotting the 25-year-old Black man running in their neighborhood Feb. 23, 2020. A neighbor, William “Roddie” Bryan, joined the chase and recorded cellphone video of Travis McMichael blasting Arbery at close range with a shotgun.

The video sparked a national outcry over Arbery’s killing when it leaked online more than two months later, and officials in the port city of Brunswick and surrounding Glynn County prepared for the possibility of violent protests when the case went to trial in mid-October. A jury convicted the McMichaels and Bryan of murder and other crimes Nov. 24.

Demonstrators supporting Arbery’s family gathered outside the Glynn County courthouse most days. At one point, hundreds of Black pastors converged outside the building for a prayer vigil. On another day, men in military-style fatigues calling themselves members of the New Black Panther Party marched around the courthouse carrying guns.

No violence was reported.

“The Arbery family’s message of peace added a great deal to the final outcome,” County Commissioner Wayne Neal said.

A judge sentenced the McMichaels to serve life in prison with no chance of parole earlier this month, while Bryan received a life sentence with a possibility of parole after serving 30 years.

Court proceedings in Arbery’s death are not over. The McMichaels and Bryan have been indicted on federal hate crimes charges in U.S. District Court. Jury selection for that trial is scheduled to begin Feb. 7.

For a deeper exploration of Ahmaud Arbery’s story, listen to WABE’s podcast, “Buried Truths.” Hosted by journalist, professor, and Pulitzer-prize-winning author Hank Klibanoff, season three of “Buried Truths” explores the Arbery murder and its direct ties to racially motivated murders of the past in Georgia.