Jury selection in the trial of three men charged with chasing and killing Ahmaud Arbery has spilled into a second week
Jury selection in the trial of three men charged with chasing and killing Ahmaud Arbery crawled into its second week Monday, with the judge and attorneys resuming their slow-moving task of questioning potential jurors one-by-one.
Superior Court Judge Timothy Walmsley has said it’s possible a final jury of 12 people, plus four alternate jurors, may not be seated until sometime next week in coastal Glynn County.
Arbery was fatally shot Feb. 23, 2020, after a white father and son armed themselves and pursued the 25-year-old Black man in a pickup truck after spotting him running in their neighborhood outside the port city of Brunswick. A white neighbor, William “Roddie” Bryan, joined the chase and took cellphone video of the shooting that stirred a national outcry when it leaked online two months later.
The McMichaels and Bryan were all three charged with murder and other crimes last year. Their attorneys have opted to try to find an impartial jury in Glynn County, a community of 85,000 where the slaying dominated news headlines, social media feeds and workplace chatter.
Defense attorneys said the men facing trial committed no crimes. They say the McMichaels had reason to suspect Arbery had committed crimes in the neighborhood because he had been seen previously entering a house under construction. They say Travis McMichael shot him in self-defense after Arbery attacked with his fists.
Prosecutors say Arbery was merely out jogging when he was slain. Investigators have said he was unarmed and there’s no evidence he committed crimes in the area.
Last week, only 23 out of 71 jury pool members questioned at the courthouse was deemed fair-minded enough to qualify for the pool from which a final jury will be chosen. Dozens more will be needed before a final jury can be seated.
Most potential jurors questioned so far have seen the video of Travis McMichael shooting Arbery three times at close range with a shotgun. Many have said they have already formed opinions about the case, including some deemed impartial enough to remain in the jury pool because they said they can keep an open mind.
Three of the 19 jury pool members brought to the courthouse Monday were dismissed with minimal questioning. Two of them said they already have opinions about the defendants’ guilt or innocence. The third said she does not speak English well enough to serve.
One prospective juror questioned by attorneys said he’s a former law enforcement officer who took part last year in a memorial event in which people ran in Arbery’s memory and posted video to social media. He told attorneys he did not think chasing Arbery was the best idea, suggesting the men on trial should have called police instead.
“Do you believe as they sit here now that they have a committed a crime?” asked Jason Sheffield, an attorney for Travis McMichael.
“I’d say yes,” the man replied. When asked what crime he thought the committed, he replied: “Murder?”
Another man, a railroad worker, noted that Arbery was unarmed when he was killed.
“It was three persons who attacked one and no gun,” the potential juror said.
Still, he said he does not know much about the case besides what he saw in the video. And he told attorneys he does not use a computer or use social media.
“There’s things that happened that we didn’t see and we don’t know,” the man said.