‘It’s a small enough town’: Privacy concerns complicate jury selection in Ahmaud Arbery murder trial

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  • One of 62,000 registered voters in Glynn County, Georgia, received a jury summons for the trial of three white men charged with the murder of Ahmaud Arbery last February.
  • Judge Timothy Walmsley has barred the media from releasing identifying information about jurors and has repeatedly assured that the court is working to maintain their anonymity.
  • A potential juror told the court this week: “Any verdict, guilty or innocent, is going to be unpopular among some people. Maybe even I’ll feel unsafe, I don’t know.”

Brunswick, Ga. – There will be a jury member in the murder trial of Three men charged with murder of 25-year-old Ahmaud Arbery expressed concern this week about remaining anonymous, should he be selected for service – especially given the size of the community and the intense public interest in the high-profile trial.

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One thousand out of 62,000 registered votersThe case in Glynn County received a jury summons. The judge expects the jury pool to be narrowed down to a smaller group of 64 and, eventually, to 16-12 jurors and four alternate members.

Complicating that process is the fact thatSeveral potential jurors have told the court that they know Arbery, the defendants, potential witnesses, other potential jurors, and some local figures involved in the case. Some said they worried he would be identified as a juror in the press and feared he would face personal repercussions after the verdict was delivered.

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A ‘lynching’ or self-defense: 3 Georgia men put on trial in the murder of Ahmaud Arbery in 2020

“I don’t want to be moved because something is wrong,” a prospective jury said on Monday.

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Another potential juror, under questioned by lawyers for the defendants, expressed similar concerns: “Any verdict, guilty or innocent, is going to be unpopular with some people,” she said. “Maybe I’ll feel insecure too, I don’t know.”

A jury member told the court he was concerned “to make sure my name is out of the news”.

“It’s a small town,” another potential juror told the defendants’ lawyers on Thursday. “I think it would be naive to think that there can’t be real-world consequences.”

Judge Timothy Walmsley has barred the media from releasing identifying information about jurors and has repeatedly assured that the court is working to maintain their anonymity.

Anonymous peaks are rare. But because of concerns over social media, the ease of Internet searches, and juror safety, the practice may become more common – a change some legal scholars say. Transparency could jeopardize the need for a more diverse jury.

Brunswick is predominantly black, but sits in the overwhelmingly white Glynn County. Given the ongoing racial dynamics in the case, The demographic makeup of the jury is being watched closely.

Arbery, who was black, was fatally shot while jogging in Brunswick’s Satilla Shores neighborhood in February last year. Three white men — Greg McMichael, 65, his son Travis, 35, and his neighbor William “Roddy” Bryan, 52 — are accused of his murder.

Death of Ahmed Arbery: what happened and when

The defendants’ relationships in the small community have complicated the case from the outset. The first prosecutor assigned to the proceedings, Brunswick District Attorney Jackie Johnson, had to self-isolate because Greg McMichael had previously served as an investigator for his office and as a Glynn County police officer. since then he has been charged case for misconduct.

The next prosecutor, Waycross Judicial Circuit District Attorney George Barnhill, also had to self-isolate because he was recommended by Johnson, who failed to disclose that he had asked him to advise police on Arbery’s death.

In court late Wednesday, Brian’s defense attorney, Kevin Gough, called Brunswick a “fishbow” where everyone knows everyone. He also appeared to recognize one of the jury members.

The first week of jury selection was A cast of characters parade through a local case court as: a baker, a teacher, a security guard, a housekeeper, a crane operator, a hair stylist, a server.

Travis McMichael, left, his father, Gregory McMichael, and William

Most said they knew at least one person involved in the case, including the defendants, their partners and lawyers. One said they knew someone from the local Rotary Club. Two said that a witness used to get their hair cut. One said that they knew the neighbor of one of the defendants.

“My coworker is best friends with Roddy’s wife, we discuss this matter all the time,” one juror wrote on the questionnaire.

A jury member said that a defendant “is a friend of my father and has been to our house several times.”

A potential juror said Thursday that he has known all three defendants “for years.” He said he and the McMichaels have been part of the same hunting club for two decades.

“I feel like I know him very well,” he told prosecutor Linda Dunnikowski. “I want to be honest.”

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Several potential jurors also knew Arbery. One went to school with him. The other went to school with his parents. And one said that his son plays football with Arbery.

In the court also many jurors recognized each other. One woman said she knew six other jury members, including her son, a former student, and current and former colleagues.

Despite their varying degrees of familiarity with the case and those involved, some jurors said they could remain neutral if they sat on the panel.

A prospective jury told the court Thursday afternoon that she had known one of the defendants for 30 years. When the judge asked if she could remain neutral, the woman said “yes.”

It was not immediately clear whether she would move on to the next round of the process.

Jury selection will resume on Monday morning.

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