Brunswick, Ga. – Jury selection started on Monday Trial for the murder of three white men implicated in Ahmed Arbery’s death, a 25-year-old black man who was shot last year while jogging in this small coastal town in Georgia.
Court officials in Glynn County expect a lengthy and challenging jury selection. Jury duty notices were sent to 1,000 people, and 600 were instructed to attend a nearby gymnasium on Monday. The court could not immediately say how many arrived.
Superior Court Judge Timothy Walmsley administered the oath to 20 potential jurors earlier Monday afternoon. Each wore a face mask and sat at a distance of 6 feet.
When asked by the judge, only one prospective jury indicated they were neutral on the case, and nearly half said they were already leaning on either side — an early indication of the difficulty of jurors sitting in the high-profile trial.
A potential juror said they knew Arbery’s mother. When a prosecutor asked potential jurors if they wanted to serve on the jury, only one person raised his hand.
“This is a matter that has garnered significant attention in this community as well as across the country, and I have no doubt that thousands or so of individuals, upon receiving the summons, reacted in some way. ” said.
“It’s not an easy thing for anyone,” he said.
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Arbery shot while jogging February 23, 2020, in Brunswick, approximately 70 miles south of Savannah. Father and sons Gregory and Travis McMichael and their neighbor William “Roddy” Bryan were charged with murder and other crimes. Brian Recorded portion of a shoot in a graphic video Which drew a national outcry and widespread media attention over the lack of arrests at the start of the case.
Lawyers on both sides were expected to question the jury pool in the coming days, in groups and individually, to determine whether they had formed an opinion about the case that would help them serve. makes it incapable.
Ultimately, the judge requires a jury of 12, plus four alternative seats, to be on standby to fill any jurors who become ill or are dismissed before the trial ends. Once the jury sits, the trial could take more than two weeks, said Glynn County Superior Court Clerk Ronald Adams.
Cobb County Senior Assistant District Attorney Linda Dunnikowski told potential jurors the trial could go on until November 19.
Prospective jurors received a three-page pretrial questionnaire asking what they already knew about the case, where they got their news, whether they had posted any online comments about Arbery’s murder, and whether They have visited the shooting scene or done other research. case on its own.
According to a list of questions read before the court on Monday morning, lawyers were also expected to ask jurorsAbout his views on racism, use of the “n” word, the Confederate flag and the Black Lives Matter movement. Walmsley ruled that the lawyers wereAllowed to ask some questions.
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Legal experts have said that although race likely won’t be a key tactic for prosecutors, they Hopefully it will head into the test and has raised concerns that the defense would attempt to exclude potential jurors on the basis of race. Brunswick, which has just over 16,000 residents, is predominantly black but sits in highly white Glynn County.
About 75 people wearing blue shirts and holding “Justice for Ahmed” signs Walked about a mile through Brunswick On Sunday evenings, chanting “No justice, no peace”.
“I just want a conviction,” said Marcus Arbery, Ahmed Arbery’s father, standing among the crowd. “They killed my son because of the color of the skin. It’s a really racial hate crime.”
Public figures, including civil rights lawyer Ben Crump and Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms, have called the killing “lynching.” Crump, who represents Marcus Arbery, gathered with his client and the media outside the historic Glynn County Courthouse on Monday.
“This is the first step in the journey to justice,” Crump said. “You can’t kill a black man in America in 2021 and think that it will be handled the same way we handled cases in the 1940s in the 1950s.”
Dozens of people from across the country set up chairs outside the courthouse – not to watch the jury selection but to support the Arbery family. The crowd sometimes broke into chants of “Black Lives Matter” and rejoiced when the family and their lawyers had left.
“They’re hurting,” said Peggy Harris, who took the 15-hour bus journey from Ferguson, Missouri. “He was someone’s child, you know? We wanted to be a beacon of light to him.”
Daniela Rodriguez, a Mexican immigrant who grew up in Brunswick, said she came to the courthouse “to see justice and to make Brunswick a better place”. Rodriguez said she became a community organizer because of racism in the small town.
In addition to the charges of felony murder and felony, the three defendants have been charged with two counts of grievous assault and one count of false imprisonment and criminal attempt of false imprisonment. The trio also face federal hate crime charges and a wrongful death civil trial filed by Arbery’s mother.
Defense lawyers say the McMichaels pursued Arbery to arrest the civilian because they suspected he was a thief and that Travis McMichael shot Arbery in self-defense. Brian’s lawyer says he was merely a witness to the crime. Prosecutors and Arbery’s family say Arbery did not commit a crime.
Contributions: Richard Burkhart, Savannah Morning News; The Associated Press