(GLYNN COUNTY, Georgia) – A jury was formed on Wednesday to decide the fate of three white Georgia men accused of hunting down and killing Ahmaud Arbery, a 25-year-old black man who prosecutors said had just done a jog on Sunday. in 2020 when he was attacked.
Opening statements for the murder trial will likely begin on Friday in Brunswick, Georgia, the judge said.
The jury in the Glynn County Superior Court case was chosen after an arduous selection process that lasted nearly three weeks and began with a pool of 1,000 potential jurors. The 12 selected include 11 whites and one black, which provoked an objection based on racial prejudice. Each juror was reviewed and the court ruled that it appeared there had been discrimination, but was limited to what could be done.
“This is the most complicated jury selection I have ever been involved in that includes death penalty cases,” Kevin Gough, lawyer for defendant William “Roddie” Bryan, said during a hearing Thursday morning.
The 16 jurors, including four alternates, were chosen from a smaller pool of 64 qualified candidates. All 16 jurors will be sworn in to hear the evidence in the case.
Before the final stage of jury selection began, one of the potential jurors from the qualified group was fired for cause after Gough alerted the court to a series of TikTok videos brought to his attention on the night of the 44 year old woman realizing what he described. as a “dance tribute” to Arbery. Gough noted that at least one of the videos posted by the potential juror included a heart emoji and the hashtag RunWithMaud.
“It is clear that this juror has an emotional connection to Mr. Arbery,” Gough said.
The group of 48 from which they were drawn included 36 whites and 12 African Americans, a makeup more in line with the population of Glynn County, which is 30% black.
The three defendants are Gregory McMichael, 65, a retired police officer, his son, Travis McMichael, 35, and their neighbor, Bryan, 52.
The men pleaded not guilty to murder, aggravated assault and criminal attempt to commit false imprisonment.
The McMichaels and Bryans were also charged with federal hate crimes in April and have all pleaded not guilty.
Arbery was jogging on February 23, 2020 in the Satilla Shores neighborhood near Brunswick when he stopped and entered a house under construction, evidence presented at the preliminary hearing showed. Surveillance video showed Arbery, who lived in a different part of Brunswick, inside the unsecured house looking around and leaving empty-handed.
Arbery continued to run past the McMichaels’ home, where Gregory McMichael spotted him and believed he fit the description of a neighborhood burglary suspect, according to his attorney.
Investigators allege Gregory McMichael and his son armed themselves and pursued Arbery in a van bearing a Confederate flag vanity plaque. Bryan allegedly joined the pursuit and, according to prosecutors, attempted to use his truck to block Arbery’s path.
Travis McMichael is also expected to claim self-defense, arguing that the use of lethal force was justified when Arbery fiercely resisted the arrest of a citizen under a law that existed at the time. The pre-Civil War law that was repealed in May, mainly because of Arbery’s murder, gave civilians the power to arrest someone they “reasonably suspected” of trying to escape. a crime.
Bryan recorded cellphone video of the confrontation that partly caught Travis McMichael shooting Arbery during a fight and is expected to be the primary evidence prosecutors plan to present at trial.
Bryan’s attorney claims he was only a witness to the incident, but prosecutors have claimed he was an active participant. Prosecutors also allege Bryan told investigators he overheard Travis McMichael yelling a racial insult at Arbery as he died on the streets, an allegation the young McMichael denies.
Since Arbery’s murder, the case has often been in the national limelight as protesters took to the streets for weeks to demand the arrest of suspects and two district attorneys recused themselves.
Former Brunswick District Attorney Jackie Johnson, the first prosecutor to hear the case and who has previously had a working relationship with Gregory McMichael, was charged in September with one count of raping her oath of office allegedly “showing favor and affection” to Gregory McMichael. and one count of the offense of obstructing a law enforcement officer. Johnson, who lost a re-election bid in November 2020, has pleaded not guilty to the charges.
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