x
Breaking News
More () »

Why can authorities charge someone with murder when they didn't pull the trigger?

One of three defendants in the Ahmaud Arbery case is suspected of pulling the trigger, but all three are charged with murder

ATLANTA — More than a year after the death of Ahmaud Arbery, three men will go on trial for murder even though only one of them is accused of pulling the trigger.

Authorities allege that it was Travis McMichael who fired the shotgun blasts that took Arbery’s life. Investigators allege that McMichael’s father Greg McMichael joined him in the pursuit of Arbery and that William “Roddie” Bryan followed while recording video of the chase. All three face a long list of charges that include felony murder.

“You don’t have to intend to kill someone to be punished for murder in the state of Georgia,” said attorney Page Pate.

A grand jury indicted Bryan, alleging he was party to a series of crimes that resulted in Arbery’s death. It is one of the ways authorities can pursue murder charges against a defendant who is not suspected of pulling the trigger.

Authorities have accused Bryan of using his pickup truck to try and stop Arbery as the 25-year-old jogged along a rural south Georgia road. Evidence of that led the grand jury to indict Bryan on felony charges of aggravated assault and false imprisonment.

Pate tells us if someone is suspected of committing a felony and another person dies during the commission of that crime, they can be charged with murder. One example would be a driver who remains inside of a vehicle while others commit an armed robbery. If anyone is shot and killed during the robbery, the driver can face murder charges.

“Because he had the underlying criminal intent to commit the armed robbery and the death of the clerk was foreseeable,” said Pate.

According to Georgia law, you can be charged with murder if you advise or encourage someone else to commit a crime that results in a death.

You can be miles away.

“There are the cases where a person incites another to commit the crime,” said UGA Law Professor Ron Carlson. “Vigorous, vigorous encouragement.”

Carlson says these can be tough cases to prove.

“This is why prosecutors will want the judge to carefully instruct the jury about how Georgia’s party to the crime law can implicate a person who doesn’t do the shooting,” said Carlson.

If convicted, Bryan faces the same life sentence the McMichaels. The three are also charged with federal hate crimes related to Ahmaud Arbery’s death.