BRUNSWICK, Ga. — As jury selection got slowly underway Monday in the trial of three white men charged with fatally shooting Ahmaud Arbery as he was running in their Georgia neighborhood, potential jurors said they came in with negative feelings about the case and worried about the personal consequences of serving on the jury.
The slaying of the 25-year-old Black man sparked a national outcry fueled by graphic video of the shooting leaked online more than two months after Arbery was killed. Father and son Greg and Travis McMichael and their neighbor William “Roddie” Bryan are charged with murder and other crimes in Arbery’s death on Feb. 23, 2020, just outside the port city of Brunswick.
With hundreds called, jury selection could last two weeks or more. Arbery’s father said he was praying for an impartial panel and a fair trial, saying Black crime victims too often have been denied justice.
“This is 2021, and it’s time for a change,” Marcus Arbery Sr. told The Associated Press. “We need to be treated equally and get fair justice as human beings, because we’ve been treated wrong so long.”
The first panel of 20 jurors was sworn in and questioned Monday afternoon.
When Judge Timothy Walmsley asked the group if their minds were neutral regarding both sides of the case, only one raised a hand. Asked if they were already leaning toward either side, about half raised their hands to indicate yes.
“Please raise your card if you would like to serve on this jury,” prosecutor Linda Dunikoski instructed as she wrapped up her questions for the group.
At first, nobody did. Finally, one young man raised his hand.
Jason Sheffield, one of Travis McMichael’s attorneys, asked the group whether they had any negative feelings about the three defendants. More than half raised their hands.
After being questioned as a group, the potential jurors were questioned individually. Their answers reflected the intense attention the case has attracted, their existing ideas about the case and their apprehensions about being involved in such a high-profile case.
An Air Force veteran and gun owner who was the first to be questioned said he had a negative impression of Greg McMichael but not the other defendants.
“I got the impression he was stalking,” the man said, saying he based that on news coverage and from seeing the video of the shooting “fewer than five times.”
“From what I observed, he appeared to be the lead dog,” the panel member said of Greg McMichael, a retired investigator for the local district attorney’s office. Still, he said he had not made up his mind about innocence or guilt.
Another panelist said he had seen so much about the slaying in the news and on social media that “I’m sick of it.”