BRUNSWICK, Ga. – Wednesday marked the seventh day of jury selection in the trial of the three men accused of chasing and killing Ahmaud Arbery.
Nineteen potential jurors were questioned on Wednesday, six of whom qualified to advance.
So far, 42 potential jurors have been qualified to advance since jury selection began on Oct. 18. That’s more than half of the 64 that are needed in a jury pool from with the final jury will be chosen.
Defense attorneys said that by the end of the week, they believe they’ll reach the 64 potential jurors needed.
“So a two-week process to get a jury in a case like this, with the amount of publicity, is really not unreasonable under any standard,” said Bob Rubin, who’s representing Travis McMichael. “We’re very pleased that we’ve gotten the number of jurors that we’ve gotten qualified.”
Once they reach 64, they’ll question them to pull for the final 12 jurors and four alternates.
Jury selection didn’t start Wednesday until a little after 9 a.m.
The judge was waiting on some of the potential jurors but said there will be reminders to jury panels that they need to be on time to start at 8:30 a.m.
Also on Wednesday, defense attorneys questioned how they can make sure what’s said by the court goes on the record. This was after concerns of Twitter posts and demonstrations outside were mentioned in the courtroom.
“So that if we lose this case, we can argue on appeal that either we were not ineffective, or where we might share the opinion on appeal that the court failed to exercise discretion,” said Jason Sheffield, who’s representing Travis McMichael.
Attorneys not affiliated with the case say this is so the defense can have something to use if they have to file an appeal.
Superior Court Judge Timothy Walmsley responded, saying he won’t engage in the way counsel has attempted him to do.
“I have tried to explain my rulings, but with potential jurors present, especially for pre-judging objections, that counsel will be flexible instead of engaging with the court and telling the court what they heard to mold the court’s ruling in an additional ruling,” Walmsley said.
These conversations could be slowing down the jury selection process, although Sheffield said he’s fine with the pace because of how sensitive this case is.
“We all want justice — and justice that we can agree on and that is to let the court system do what it does best,” Sheffield said.
Attorney Kevin Gough, who represents William “Roddie” Bryan, asked the judge for a way to expedite the removal for cause for potential jurors that are improbable to be seated for reasons like being over the age of 70. He said they’re going to have a revolt from the jury pool.
The judge responded, saying they are moving as fast as possible and he hopes the community understands the court must be very deliberate about the process to render a just verdict.
Court ended a bit early Wednesday — shortly before 5:30 p.m.
The defense asked how jury selection will go next week, with the hopes of getting to the 64 potential jurors needed this week. The judge said that once they get 64, they’ll go in the order of which they were qualified. The judge said the process will be clearer by the time they get there.
Court picks back up at 8:30 a.m. Thursday.
FULL COVERAGE: The Ahmaud Arbery Case | Judge rules signs, demonstrators can stay outside courthouse | Brunswick Confederate monument wrapped in plastic during trial | News4Jax is livestreaming jury selection, although audio is muted most of the time
Arbery was fatally shot after a white father and son, Gregory and Travis McMichael, spotted the 25-year-old Black man running through their neighborhood outside the port city of Brunswick on Feb. 23, 2020. They armed themselves and pursued him in a pickup truck, and then a white neighbor, Bryan, joined the chase in another truck. No one was charged until two months later, after Bryan’s cellphone video of the chase and shooting leaked online and stirred a national outcry.
Now the McMichaels and Bryan face life in prison if convicted of murder. Their lawyers have opted to try to find an impartial jury in coastal Glynn County, a community of 85,000 where the slaying dominated news headlines, social media feeds and workplace chatter.
Defense attorneys said the men facing trial committed no crimes. They say the McMichaels had reason to suspect Arbery had committed crimes in the neighborhood because he had been seen previously entering a house under construction. They say Travis McMichael shot him in self-defense after Arbery attacked with his fists.
Prosecutors say Arbery was merely out jogging when he was slain. Investigators have said he was unarmed and there’s no evidence he committed crimes in the area.
Most potential jurors questioned so far have seen the video of Travis McMichael shooting Arbery three times at close range with a shotgun. Many have said they have already formed opinions about the case, including some deemed impartial enough to remain in the jury pool because they said they can keep an open mind.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.