Jury selection is slow, tangled process in trial over Ahmaud Arbery's death: What we know

·4 min read

BRUNSWICK, Ga. — Jury selection resumes Monday in the murder trial of the three white men accused of killing 25-year-old Black jogger Ahmaud Arbery – a painstaking process complicated by the high-profile nature of the case and prospective jurors' personal connection to it.

Father and son Greg and Travis McMichael and their neighbor William "Roddie" Bryan are accused of killing Arbery after spotting him in their Brunswick neighborhood on Feb. 23, 2020. Bryan filmed part of the shooting in a video that was leaked two months later, sparking national outrage over a lack of arrests.

During four long days of questioning last week, many prospective jurors expressed strong beliefs about the defendants' guilt and said the shooting was motivated by race. Others expressed concerns about remaining anonymous in the relatively small Georgia community where many know people involved in the case.

The court anticipated finding impartial jurors would be a lengthy and challenging process, but it could go on even longer than expected.

Here's what to know about the trial:

How long is the trial expected to take?

Jury selection was scheduled to last two weeks, but Judge Timothy Walmsley has already expressed frustration about the slow pace of questioning.

"It could get into next week," Walmsley told attorneys Thursday. "Possibly into the week after."

Cobb County Senior Assistant District Attorney Linda Dunikosk told prospective jurors the trial could run through Nov. 19.

How is jury selection progressing?

Approximately 1,000 of the 62,000 registered voters in Glynn County received a summons and a three-page questionnaire in the mail. More than 60 eligible jurors will be selected before the group is narrowed to a final panel of 16, where 12 will serve as jurors and four as alternates.

About 80 people were questioned over four days last week. The court has identified 23 potential jurors eligible to move onto the next phase of the process, but the court still needs dozens more.

Religious leaders sing at the Glynn County Courthouse as jury selection begins in the trial of the defendants in the shooting death of Ahmaud Arbery on October 18, 2021 in Brunswick, Georgia.
Religious leaders sing at the Glynn County Courthouse as jury selection begins in the trial of the defendants in the shooting death of Ahmaud Arbery on October 18, 2021 in Brunswick, Georgia.

How will race factor into the trial?

Though attorneys for the defendants have asserted the case is not about race, they continue to question would-be jurors on the subject. Multiple prospective jurors have indicated they believe race was a factor in Arbery's killing.

The trio are not facing state hate crimes charges because Georgia did not have hate crime legislation at the time, but they have been federally charged with violating Arbery's civil rights.

Meanwhile, legal observers are closely monitoring the jury selection process to see if the demographic makeup reflects that of the community. Brunswick, a small coastal town about 70 miles south of Savannah, is predominantly Black and sits in the overwhelmingly white Glynn County.

'There is still racism in the world': Race at forefront of jury questioning in trial over Ahmaud Arbery's death

Many jurors know about the case

Nearly all of the prospective jurors this week have said they know the facts of the case, have read documents posted online by the court and had seen video of the incident.

Many personally know Arbery, the defendants, potential witnesses, other prospective jurors and some of the local figures involved.

Knowing about the case or the people involved isn't an automatic disqualifier, but the judge has dismissed several people who indicated they've formed opinions about the case that aren't likely to change and could prevent them from rendering a fair verdict.

Attorney Ben Crump, left, and Marcus Arbery Sr., the father of Ahmaud Arbery, second from left, arrive at the Glynn County Courthouse as jury selection begins for the trial of the shooting death of Ahmaud Arbery on October 18, 2021 in Brunswick, Georgia. Three white men are accused of chasing down and murdering Arbery in southeastern Georgia last year.
Attorney Ben Crump, left, and Marcus Arbery Sr., the father of Ahmaud Arbery, second from left, arrive at the Glynn County Courthouse as jury selection begins for the trial of the shooting death of Ahmaud Arbery on October 18, 2021 in Brunswick, Georgia. Three white men are accused of chasing down and murdering Arbery in southeastern Georgia last year.

Jurors express concerns about privacy

Many prospective jurors have also told the court they're concerned about remaining anonymous should they be selected to serve given the size of the community and intense public interest in the high-profile trial.

Just over 16,000 people call Brunswick home. Glynn County has nearly 80,000 residents.

"Any verdict, guilty or innocent, is going to be unpopular with some people," one prospective juror told defense attorneys. "Maybe I’d even feel unsafe, I don’t know."

Ahmaud Arbery video: Legal experts break down how key frames may be used in murder trial

What does the video show?

Although the shooting was captured on video, several key moments are missing.

In the short clip taken by Bryan, a white pickup truck blocks the view of the beginning of the struggle. A gunshot is heard, then Arbery and Travis McMichael are seen with their hands on a weapon that is angled upward, toward Arbery.

The struggle again goes out of view and Gregory McMichael is seen in the back of the truck. A second shot is heard, and the camera shifts back to the fight where Arbery is throwing punches.

A third gunshot is heard, and Arbery falls to the ground.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Ahmaud Arbery case: Verdict not close as jury selection continues

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