Arbery defendants seek restricted press access during juror questioning

·2 min read

Jul. 16—Defense attorneys want all news media barred from the courtroom during questioning of potential jurors in the trial of the men accused of murder in the racially charged shooting death of Ahmaud Arbery, according to motions filed in Glynn County Superior Court this week.

The motions were filed Wednesday by attorneys representing Gregory McMichael and his son, Travis McMichael. The younger McMichael shot and killed the unarmed Arbery on a street in the Satilla Shores neighborhood on Feb. 23, 2020. Arbery was Black. The McMichaels and co-defendant William "Roddie" Bryan, are White.

Jury selection begins Oct. 18. Judge Timothy Walmsley will hold a hearing at 10 a.m Thursday in Superior Court to consider jury selection issues, trial scheduling and pretrial motions.

The McMichaels armed themselves and pursued Arbery in a pickup truck as he ran through the neighborhood, a chase that ended with Travis McMichael shooting Arbery at close range with a 12-gauge shotgun as the two struggled for possession of the gun.

Bryan joined the chase in his own pickup truck, videoing the deadly conclusion with his cellphone. The video sparked national outrage and cries of racial injustice when it went viral online in May of 2020, just days before the Georgia Bureau of Investigation arrested the three men.

The McMichaels said they suspected Arbery of burglarizing a home in the neighborhood. Defense attorneys indicated during preliminary hearings in May that they will contend the McMichaels used self defense in the process of making a citizen's arrest.

Defense attorneys noted the impassioned emotions surrounding the highly publicized Arbery case. Attorneys do not want news media present during the portion of jury selection in which individuals are questioned about personal beliefs, knowledge of the case or possible connections with those involved.

"The extraordinary amount of public attention, comment, and speculation in this case presents significant challenges to seating a fair and impartial jury," the motions states.

Georgia law opens jury trials and jury selection to news media and the public. However, judges can prohibit access under certain circumstances.

The Cobb County District Attorney's Office is prosecuting the case.

The motion included a detailed questionnaire the defense seeks to present to potential jurors, which questions everything from a person's knowledge of the case, social media habits and thoughts on race relations.

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