The Ahmaud Arbery murder trial is underway, and attorneys for both sides are feeling the difficulty in putting together an open-minded jury. This story gained national attention, and it is highly unlikely that anyone in the city of Brunswick has not heard about the case. Associated Press has been following jury selection and gives us an idea of the obstacles faced in seating an impartial jury in this case.
AP described two potential jurors, both of whom may yet be seated on the final jury. Juror No. 218 was part of a bike ride that was organized following Arbery’s death, while No. 236 was a co-worker of Greg McMichael. Both attorneys closely questioned the two potential jurors, wondering whether they could be truly fair-minded. The judge overseeing the case decided that both could remain in the pool from which final selections will be made. While No. 236 “has been around” Greg McMichael for 30 years as a coworker, she does not consider him a “friend.” In response to questioning, she said: “I don’t understand why they took it into their own hands. That’s the only thing that disturbs me about that day. I would have called 911 and let the police handle it.” There is plenty about that day that is disturbing, though she does make a valid point. Why did the McMichaels and their neighbor decide to play prosecutor and jury, sentencing Arbery to death?
Well-known defense attorney Don Samuel believes that defendants will likely get a change of venue due to pretrial publicity. He is not involved in this case, but he has many years of experience defending accused criminals and knows his stuff. He is correct that it will be virtually impossible to find 16 people (12 plus four alternates) who do not have a strong opinion of the case. Juror No. 218—who the judge has so far allowed to remain—is a classic example. While she assured attorneys that she could be fair and open-minded, she said: “A young man was shot due to his color and the three men that committed the act almost go away. I feel like they are guilty.” With those responses, it is puzzling that the judge allowed her to remain, even for now.
They may well end up moving this trial to another county in the state, but it is not clear how much good that will do, as the case quickly gained national attention. Many remain outraged over the senseless murder of this young man. It certainly appears that these men made up their minds that Arbery was up to something criminal, and you can only think it had to do with the fact that he is black. We will likely never know what they were thinking, as they certainly will not reveal their true feelings during the trial. They will likely continue to try to claim that they thought he was a burglar, but that explanation will not serve them well. If they truly believed that, why did they not just report him to the police? That alone makes you wonder about their intent.
Shirley is a former entertainment writer and has worked in the legal field for over 25 years