The jury foreman in the federal hate crime trial of the killers of Ahmaud Arbery is speaking candidly about the men convicted in the February 2020 vigilante-style slaying.
Marcus Ransom, 35, revealed to The New York Times that the testimony and evidence during the trial made him emotional, moving him to tears at times and compelling him to pray in his hotel room each night after jury service.
“Just seeing that it was so much hatred that they had, not only for Ahmaud, but to other people of the Black race. It was a lot to take in,” said Ransom, the only Black man on the jury.
Ransom and his fellow jurors found the three defendants, father and son Gregory and Travis McMichael and their neighbor William “Roddie” Bryan, guilty on Feb. 22 of federal hate crimes. In a separate state trial, a different jury convicted the three men of murder and sentenced them in January to life in prison.
Both McMichaels and Bryan chased Arbery, who was jogging in their neighborhood, and cornered him with their pickup trucks on Feb. 23, 2020, in Brunswick, Ga. The pursuit ended with Travis McMichael fatally shooting an unarmed Arbery. The police arrested them weeks later only after a video of the shooting went viral.
At jury selection, Ransom said he had seen the video but knew only a few details about the case. He recalled the prosecutor telling the jurors–three Black, eight white and one Hispanic–during opening statements that the government would show that the three defendants routinely used racial slurs toward Black people.
Travis McMichael has called Black people “criminals” and “subhuman savages,” as well as wished violence on Black people many times. It was Travis who fired a shotgun that left a gaping hole in Arbery’s chest.
Ransom revealed that he cried in court while watching footage during the trial, including a video showing Arbery bleeding on the pavement while the three men ignored his suffering and another video that one of the defendants shared with a friend that mocks a Black boy.
Ransom wasn’t surprised by their racist attitude because, as a young Black man growing up in the Deep South, he was on the receiving end of racist remarks from white people and was racially profiled.
He was, however, deeply disturbed by the indifference the defendants showed after murdering Arbery as he lay dying. Ransom, a juvenile probation officer, was also appalled that Bryan decided to join in the chase of Arbery, whom the McMichaels falsely accused of theft. Bryan just assumed Arbery’s guilt because of the color of his skin. The defendants’ apparent lack of remorse during the trial also deeply bothered Ransom.
After closing arguments, the other jurors unanimously chose Ransom to serve as the foreman.
“No one really voiced exactly why,” he said, adding that they likely chose him because it seemed appropriate for a Black man to take the lead in this case. During deliberations, the jurors went about deciding the case in a businesslike manner, and none of them argued in favor of the defendants.
Ransom said that although racism still exists he feels optimistic “that we as a nation, you know, we’re moving in the right direction.”