- Judge Timothy Walmsley declined to change the jury’s racial makeup after prosecutors had asked him to reinstate eight Black potential jurors, arguing that defense lawyers struck them because of their race.
- From 600 applicants, the final jury panel, consisting of twelve jurors and four substitutes, was chosen.
- Jurors will be sworn in 9 a.m. Friday, followed by opening arguments in a trial that’s expected to stretch into the week of Nov. 19.
A jury was selected Wednesday night in the murder trial of the three men accused of killing Ahmaud Arbery in Georgia last year – more than two weeks after attorneys began working through an initial pool of hundreds of would-be jurors, many of whom had a personal connection to the case.
The jurors will take their oaths at 9 am Friday. Opening arguments follow. Thursday will be spent on motion hearings and getting “acquainted with the court,” Judge Timothy Walmsley said. The final panel of 12 jurors and four alternates includes just one person of color, a Black man.
Walmsley was asked by the prosecution to reinstate eight potential Black jurors. They argued that their removal from the final jury had been due to prejudiced defense lawyers. The U.S. Supreme Court has held it’s unconstitutional for attorneys during jury selection to strike potential jurors solely based on race or ethnicity.
The ‘lynching or self-defense of a person:Three Georgian men are on trial for the murder of Ahmaud Abery in 2020
While Walmsley agreed that there “appears to be intentional discrimination,” the judge declined to change the racial makeup, saying he was limited in his ability to take action because defense attorneys were able to give nonracial reasons for their decisions to strike the potential Black jurors from the panel.
“One of the challenges that I think counsel recognize in this case is the racial overtones in the case, and … we have not been able to escape those discussions,” Walmsley said.
The painstakingly slow selection process – further complicated by the high-profile nature of Arbery’s death and prospective jurors’ concerns about their privacy, among other factors – began with jury duty notices sent to 1,000 people, an exceptionally large number that hinted at the expected challenge of finding an impartial panel in a case that sparked national outrage.
Walmsley, who had shown signs of impatience throughout jury selection, told the defense and prosecutors Wednesday morning: “We are going to try to pick a jury this morning.”
The jury was called to duty by 600 individuals on October 18. That group was winnowed to 65 eligible jurors this week before 16 were selected to hear the case – 12 women and four men.
“This is the most complicated jury selection that I’ve ever been a part of,” said Kevin Gough, who represents William “Roddie” Bryan, the man who filmed Arbery’s killing on Feb. 23, 2020. Video of the shooting was leaked two months later, casting the 25-year-old Black man’s death into the national spotlight.
Attorneys are expected to deliver opening statements Friday, almost two years after Arbery was chased and fatally shot while jogging in the Satilla Shores neighborhood of Brunswick. The three men charged in his murder – Greg McMichael, 65, his son Travis, 35, and their neighbor Bryan, 52 – are white.
Brunswick, located 70 miles north of Savannah on the coast, is mostly Black. The town sits in Glynn, an overwhelmingly white county.
Multiple prospective jurors stated that they believe race played a role in Arbery’s death during the selection process. Others said they knew the facts of the case, have read documents posted online by the court and seen video of the incident.
Dozens of would-be jurors said they have “negative feelings” toward the three defendants, and many said they’re already decided the men are guilty.
The trial is expected to stretch into the week of Nov. 19.
Contributing to The Associated Press