Three Georgia men sentenced to life in prison for murder of Ahmaud Arbery
William Bryan (L), Gregory McMichael (C) and Travis McMichael (R) were found guilty of the murder of Ahmaud Arbery (AFP)

A judge in Georgia on Friday sentenced three white men to life in prison for the murder of an African-American jogger.

"I've read somewhere, and I don't remember where it was, that at a minimum, Ahmaud Arbery's death should force us to consider expanding our definition of what a neighbor may be and how we treat them. I argue that maybe a neighbor is more than the people who just own property around your house. I believe that assuming the worst in others we show our worst character,"

"In this case, I think many people are seeking closure. The mother, the father, the community, and maybe even parts of the nation, but closure is hard to define and is a granular concept. It's seen differently by all depending on their perspective and the prism of your lives," Judge Timothy Walmsley said before the sentencing.

"Instead of closure, maybe it would be best to see today's proceeding as an exercise in accountability. We are all accountable for our own actions. Today demonstrates that everybody is accountable to the rule of law. Taking the law into your own hands is a dangerous endeavor," the judge added.

Travis McMichael, who shot Ahmaud Arbery, his father Gregory McMichael, and their neighbor, William "oddie" Bryan, were all convicted of multiple counts of murder, aggravated assault and false imprisonment in November.

Travis McMichael, 35, Gregory McMichael, 66, a retired police officer, and Bryan, 52, face potential life in prison for the February 2020 shooting of 25-year-old Arbery.

The trial was driven by graphic video of the armed men following Arbery as he ran through their neighborhood, suspecting with no evidence that he might have been a burglar.

The video, taken by Bryan, shows Arbery trying to avoid them and then Travis McMichael eventually confronting and shooting him with a shotgun.

The video was initially kept secret by local law enforcement and it took several months for the McMichaels and Bryan to be arrested, which came after the footage was leaked online, sparking national outrage.

A local prosecutor, Jackie Johnson, has been indicted for violating her oath of office and allegedly hindering the investigation into Arbery's death.

During the trial, the defendants said they suspected Arbery was a burglar who had been active in their neighborhood and invoked a since-repealed state law that allows ordinary citizens to make arrests.

But prosecutors said they had no justification for attempting to detain Arbery and never told him they were trying to arrest him as he jogged through their Satilla Shores neighborhood on a Sunday afternoon.

Arbery was "trying to get away from these strangers who were yelling at him, threatening to kill him," lead prosecutor Linda Dunikoski told the court. "And then they killed him."

"This isn't the Wild West," she said.

Ben Crump, an attorney for Arbery's father, has branded the three men a "lynch mob."

After the verdict was read on November 24, Georgia Governor Brian Kemp, a Republican, said Arbery was "the victim of a vigilantism that has no place in Georgia" and he called for "healing and reconciliation."

The men could have faced the death penalty for the murder. But prosecutors made clear before the trial they would not pursue that punishment, possibly making it easier for the mostly-white jury to reach a verdict, which came relatively quickly -- after less than 12 hours of deliberations.

President Joe Biden said in November that Arbery's killing "is a devastating reminder of how far we have to go in the fight for racial justice in this country."

With additional reporting by Raw Story