Jury selection is over in the Georgia trial of the three white men charged in the murder of Ahmaud Arbery, a Black man, last March — and only one of the final jurors is Black.
After a two-week selection process, Judge Timothy R. Walmsley signed off on the final slate of jurors but did not seem thrilled about its composition. He said there had been “intentional discrimination” on the part of the defense team but added he was powerless to stop it since defense attorneys had been “able to explain to the court why, besides race, those individuals were struck from the panel.” Glynn County, where Arbery was killed and the trial is taking place, is more than 26 percent Black.
“I can give you a race-neutral reason for any one of these,” defense attorney Laura Hogue said of Black potential jurors who had been struck from serving. She asserted various jurors had personal connections to Arbery or had strong preexisting opinions about the case.
The prosecution strongly disagreed, and Arbery’s mother called the lack of Black representation “devastating,” though she expressed confidence the jury would still reach a conviction.
The 25-year-old Arbery, an avid runner, was jogging in Brunswick, Georgia, on February 23, 2020, when Gregory McMichael and his son, Travis, began following him in their pickup truck purportedly because they thought he matched the description of a robbery suspect in the area. A third man, William Bryan, pursued Arbery in his vehicle and recorded part of the chase. The McMichaels cut off Arbery on the road and Travis McMichael exited the truck, shooting him three times and killing him during a confrontation. Travis McMichael claimed self-defense to authorities.
Local police and prosecutors, some of whom had connections to Gregory McMichael, initially didn’t charge anyone in Arbery’s death. Charges were brought in May 2020 after the investigation had been transferred to the Cobb County District Attorney’s Office and Bryan’s video of the slaying had sparked national outrage. The McMichaels and Bryan pleaded not guilty to charges including murder, aggravated assault, and false imprisonment for attempting to detain Arbery. The three men were charged separately in a federal hate-crime trial, which is set for next year.