Potential jurors see racism behind Ahmaud Arbery’s murder – the Journal
Some people interviewed during jury selection over Ahmaud Arbery’s murder said he was “racially profiled” by the white men who chased and shot him.
BRUNSWICK, Ga (AP) – Those interviewed during the jury selection over Ahmaud Arbery’s murder said he was “racially profiled” by the white men who chased and shot him, singled out “because of his color “and targeted to be” a black person who allegedly stole things.
The statements came in response to direct questions about the race of prosecutors and defense attorneys trying to sit on an impartial jury for the Arbery death trial in the coastal town of Brunswick, Georgia. The surveys elicited some pointed responses.
“The whole case is about racism,” a woman, identified only as potential juror # 199, said Thursday in the courtroom. She said the three men accused of murder “chased him down and got him. killed like an animal “.
Another potential juror, No.72, told lawyers: âIf it was a white man running around the neighborhood, I don’t think he would have been targeted as a suspect.
The comments could point to problems for defense attorneys, who have often argued for the dismissal of potential jurors who view Arbery as a victim of racial prejudice. Several of them, including numbers 199 and 72, were deemed qualified by Superior Court Judge Timothy Walmsley to remain in the pool from which a final jury will be chosen.
âIt could be devastating for the defense,â said Michael Schiavone, a Savannah criminal defense attorney who is not involved in the case. “I would be very skeptical if they could be fair after giving me their opinion.”
Under Georgian law, potential jurors are not automatically disqualified if they come forward with preconceived opinions on a case, as long as they are committed to putting those opinions aside and remaining fair and impartial during the hearing. hearing of evidence at trial. Walmsley has repeatedly cited this standard.
Greg McMichael and his adult son, Travis McMichael, armed themselves and chased Arbery in a van after spotting the 25-year-old man running through their neighborhood on February 23, 2020. A neighbor, William “Roddie” Bryan, joined the pursuit and recording of cell phone video of Travis McMichael shooting Arbery three times with a shotgun.
Defense attorneys say the McMichaels and Bryans had reason to suspect Arbery was committing crimes in the neighborhood after being recorded by security cameras inside a house under construction. They say Travis McMichael fired his shotgun in self-defense when Arbery attacked him with his fists.
No one was arrested or charged with the murder for more than two months, until the video leaked online and the Georgia Bureau of Investigation took over the case from the local police.
“If I’m honest, if it was completely reversed, and if all three men were black and the victim white, they would be arrested immediately,” another potential juror, No.571, told lawyers on Wednesday. examination. The judge also found her qualified to remain on the jury roll.
If defense attorneys conclude that the jury pool is shaping up to be biased against them, they could ask the judge to halt jury selection and move the trial. Otherwise, before a final jury sits, lawyers on both sides will have a limited number of strikes that will allow them to remove potential jurors they may find unfavorable.
If one of the defendants is convicted, it is possible that the judge’s reluctance to remove jurors who have expressed strong opinions could be used as a ground for appeal, said Jeffrey Abramson, professor of law at the University of the Texas and author of the 1994 book “We the Jury.”
“It could come back to bite you,” Abramson said, although he added that the judge “is doing the best job he can so far in an extremely difficult and delicate situation.”
Last year, a federal appeals court overturned Dzhokhar Tsarnaev’s death sentence in the Boston Marathon bombing after finding the trial judge improperly screened jurors to detect possible bias . That decision is now before the United States Supreme Court, which has yet to rule.
The men tried for Arbery’s death in Glynn County Superior Court are charged with murder, aggravated assault, forcible confinement and attempted forcible confinement – crimes that do not require proof of racist motivation. In another case slated for trial next year, they face federal hate crime charges in U.S. District Court.
Yet many see the state murder case as part of a nationwide calculation of how the criminal justice system treats black victims, much like the April conviction of former Minneapolis cop Derek Chauvin. in the murder of George Floyd.
“all have been regrouped.
“I think it gave our city a negative aspect for sure,” said the man, who blamed the defendants for choosing “a black man from a white neighborhood”.
The court did not provide the race of the individual jury members and they were not asked about their background in open court. Few would-be jurors declared their race when questioned.
Those the judge deemed qualified to sit on the jury all said they could keep an open mind if they were among the 12 jurors and four alternates on the panel. Others were fired after the judge found they had fixed opinions on the case.
A battered woman from jury service, No 164, told lawyers the way Arbery was prosecuted and shot was “almost like lynching.”
Another who was fired, No 485, said: âThe only thing they were sure was that he was black and he was running.