Jury to be seated for hate crimes trial in Arbery killing

9 months ago

BRUNSWICK, Ga. -- A jury was seated Monday for the federal hate crimes trial of three white men who were convicted of murdering Ahmaud Arbery.

Twelve jurors and four alternates were selected from a pool of 64 people who were judged qualified to serve as impartial jurors after a week of questioning about the Black man’s killing and their views on racism in America.

U.S. District Court Judge Lisa Godbey Wood said Friday that attorneys should be prepared to make opening statements Monday. She began by instructing the jurors about the nature of evidence and testimony in final preparations for the trial.

This is the second time the port city of Brunswick, on the Georgia coast south of Savannah, has hosted a trial in Arbery’s killing, after the same three men were sentenced in state court to life in prison for murder.

Father and son Greg and Travis McMichael armed themselves and chased the 25-year-old Arbery in a pickup truck after spotting him running in their neighborhood on Feb. 23, 2020. A neighbor, William “Roddie” Bryan, joined the pursuit in his own truck and recorded cellphone video of Travis McMichael blasting Arbery with a shotgun.

No arrests were made in the case until the video leaked online two months later.

A judge last month sentenced the McMichaels and Bryan to life in prison for their murder convictions. But they still face a federal trial on hate crime charges, which allege that they violated Arbery's civil rights and targeted him because he was Black.

All three men pleaded not guilty in the federal case. The judge said she expects the hate crimes trial to last between seven and 12 days.

The judge and attorneys worked last week to interview more than 160 potential jurors pulled from 43 counties across southern and eastern Georgia. Nearly two-thirds were dismissed for having strong opinions about the case after watching portions of the state murder trial or news reports about it.

Some of the 64 jury pool members who were told to return to the courthouse Monday said they knew little about the case. They include a man, identified in court only as juror No. 421, who on Friday told the judge: "The only thing I really know is that it’s a high-profile case and there might be a video related to it.”

Others were able to persuade the judge they could set aside what they know and hear the federal trial based solely on the evidence presented in court. One of them, a woman identified as juror No. 422, said she had negative feelings about the McMichaels and Bryan because they didn't seem to show remorse in the state trial, but insisted she could still be fair.

The search for an impartial jury in federal court came just a week after attorneys announced the McMichaels planned to plead guilty in the federal case in a deal with prosecutors that quickly fell apart. The judge noted only one or two potential jurors ...

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