The family of Ahamud Arbery, a Black man who was killed by three white men while running in a subdivision outside the Georgia port city of Brunswick last year, is devastated by the selection of a nearly all-white jury selected for the men’s high-profile murder case.
Despite acknowledging seemingly “intentional discrimination,” on Wednesday, Nov. 3, Judge Timothy Walmsley empaneled a jury of 11 white members and one Black member, 11 Alive reported.
Still, while talking to reporters outside of the Glynn County Courthouse on Nov. 3, the day the jury was empaneled, Arbery’s mother Wanda Cooper-Jones said she found the final jury selection to be “devastating” but had faith the panel would “make the right decision.”
Prosecutors also slammed the defense, who reportedly struck 11 potential Black jurors from the final jury pool of 48 during an unusual 11-day process.
Though prosecutors pushed to have Walmsley reconsider, citing the landmark 1986 U.S. Supreme Court Batson v Kentucky ruling that it is unconstitutional for potential jurors to be struck solely based on race or ethnicity, Walmsley stated that defense attorneys were justified in their strikes and that they had nothing to do with either race or ethnicity.
The defense attorneys said they struck jury pool members who were biased against the defendants, such as one woman who during the voir dire process said that the defendants “hunted Ahmaud down and killed him like an animal.” Another Black woman in the pool said when questioned, “No one needs to have their life taken. I believe it was wrong.”
Prosecutor Linda Dunikoski claimed that defense attorneys were “digging into” Black potential jurors’ personal lives and background — something white potential white jurors were not subjected to.
Dunikoski, who was trying to get Walmsley to restore some of the dismissed Black members back into the jury pool, told the court on Wednesday that Black potential jury members were asked “Well, have your kids seen it? And what did you talk to your children about? And how did you get into that?” according to the news station. However, their white counterparts were not asked those types of questions.
Attorney Laura Hogue, who represents Greg McMichael, one of the men accused of killing Arbery, confirmed that they were questioning Black jurors more thoroughly because of the racial element of the case.
“That argument pretends as if the reality is not what it is,” Hogue told the judge in response Dunikoski. Hogue went on to add, “So the idea that we would be questioning jurors who made very clear statements about their opinions about this case, and the role that race played in this case, as we did with a number of white jurors who had strong opinions about race and the role that race played in this case — those are the folks that we’re going to do the deep dive with.
Gregory McMichael, his son Travis McMichael, and a neighbor William “Roddie” Bryan, have all pleaded not guilty. However, their legal troubles are far from over even if acquitted. The three men are also facing federal hate crimes and attempted kidnapping charges in a separate case brought by the U.S. Department of Justice. That trial is set to start in February.