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Ahmaud Arbery

Ruthie Freeman of the Transformative Justice Coalition demands justice for Ahmaud Arbery outside the Glynn County Courthouse in Brunswick, Georgia on October 18, 2021 as jury selection began for the trial of three men accused of murdering the unarmed Black jogger in February 2020. (Photo: Sean Rayford/Getty Images)

'Outrageous': Nearly All-White Jury Chosen for Ahmaud Arbery Murder Trial

"After being hunted down, cornered, and shot for being a Black man in a white Georgia neighborhood, Ahmaud Arbery is again denied justice."

Brett Wilkins

Relatives of Ahmaud Arbery, their attorneys, and racial justice advocates expressed shock and indignation Thursday following the selection of a nearly all-white jury—even after the presiding judge accused the defense of "intentional discrimination"—in the trial of three men accused of murdering the unarmed Black jogger in Glynn County, Georgia last year.

"Is the KKK serving as jury consultants in the Ahmaud Arbery murder trial?"

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports that from a qualified pool of 65 prospective jurors, just one Black man was selected to serve on the 12-member jury that will hear the case against Travis McMichael, his father Gregory McMichael, and William "Roddie" Bryan Jrw. All four alternate jurors are also white.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, Glynn County, where Arbery's killers are being tried, is nearly 27% Black. The city of Brunswick, where Arbery was fatally shot while jogging in February 2020, is nearly 55% Black.

"I was very shocked that we had only one Black, African-American juror," said Arbery's mother, Wanda Cooper-Jones, according to First Coast News. "That was devastating."

Lee Merritt, Cooper-Jones' attorney, said the situation is "very difficult for a family who just wants a fair day in court without racial bias, but it's inherently built into our system."

Civil rights attorney Benjamin Crump, who is also representing Arbery's family, released a statement Thursday denouncing the jury selection. 

"After being hunted down, cornered, and shot for being a Black man in a white Georgia neighborhood, Ahmaud Arbery is again denied justice," Crump said. "His killers' fate will be decided by a nearly all-white jury."

"A jury should reflect the community," Crump asserted. "It's outrageous that Black jurors were intentionally excluded to create such an imbalanced jury in a cynical effort to help those cold-blooded killers escape justice."

Upon reviewing each juror elimination, Judge Timothy R. Walmsley of Glynn County Superior Court acknowledged that "quite a few African-American jurors were excused through peremptory strikes executed by the defense."

"This court has found that there appears to be intentional discrimination in the panel," Walmsley declared, adding that the defense's "very adept counsel... has been able to explain to the court why, separate from race, those individuals were in fact struck from the panel."

Walmsley explained that in Georgia, "all the defense needs to do is provide that legitimate, nondiscriminatory, clear, reasonably specific, and related reason" to exclude potential jurors.

Lawyers for the defendants said they struck 13 potential white jurors for the same reason as they excluded so many Black people.

"Never before have we had a case where so many people have entered into the courtroom for jury selection already having an opinion about the guilt of the men charged," Jason Sheffield, one of the attorneys defending Travis McMichael—who fired the three shotgun blasts that killed Arbery—told First Coast News.

Kevin Gough, Bryan's defense attorney, voiced concern that the final jury pool wasn't diverse enough because there weren't more older white men without college degrees.

"We're missing a segment of what would normally be here," Gough complained, referring to a lack of "Bubbas or Joe Six-Packs."

Merritt, who accused defense attorneys of "badgering" some of the potential jurors, told The New York Times that "this has been the strangest jury selection process I have ever seen." 

Speaking to reporters outside the courthouse, Cooper-Jones said she is "very confident" the jurors will "make the right decision after seeing all the evidence."

Arbery, an accomplished athlete and avid runner, was jogging in the Satilla Shores neighborhood of Brunswick, Georgia on February 23, 2020 when he was confronted by the McMichaels and shot by the son as Bryan recorded the attack. While the assailants said they suspected Arbery of robbing a home under construction in the neighborhood, there was no evidence that any such crime occurred.

According to Bryan, Travis McMichael called Arbery a "fucking nigger" as he lay dying.

The three men were questioned by police before being allowed to go free for 74 days. Waycross District Attorney George E. Barnhill called the killing an act of "justifiable homicide" under Georgia's "stand your ground" law, prompting outrage over what some critics called a "modern-day lynching."

In April, the three defendants were charged with federal hate crimes in connection with Arbery's killing.

Opening statements in the trial are set to begin Friday morning.

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