Nearly All White Jury Chosen in Trial of Murdered Black Jogger

Sam H Arnold

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A nearly all-white jury has been selected in the Georgia murder trial of three white men over the shooting of a black jogger in 2020. The jury, which consists of just one black member, has been noted by the judge to be intentionally discriminatory, but he decided it was acceptable to continue.

Gregory McMichael and his son Travis have pleaded not guilty; in their murder trial of Ahmad Arbery, they state they were acting in self-defence. Prosecutors, however, will be arguing that there was racial bias at play; arguably, it has played a part in jury selection.

Jury selection lasted two and a half weeks. The defence had used eleven of their allotted twenty-four strikes to reject black jurors. The attorneys argued that they denied the jurors because it was clear that they had formed an opinion on the men being charged. In contrast, the prosecution used twelve of their strikes to reject white jurors.

Judge Timothy Walmsley acknowledged the intentional discrimination of the panel. However, he concluded that the court lacked the authority to release the jury as there was no valid reason, aside from race, for rejecting the individuals.

On 23rd February 2020, Mr Arbery was out on an afternoon run when Mr McMichael and his son Travis confronted him; their neighbour Wiliam Bryan filmed the incident. Two were armed with a pistol and shotgun and pursued Mr Arbery in their pickup truck. They tried to stop the victim, but he refused. They said they wished to make a citizens arrest as Mr Arbery resembled a suspect in a series of break-ins in the area. There is no record of the police ever being aware of these break-ins. Family members for Mr Arbery have said he was unarmed at the time.

It took two months for all three to be arrested. On arrest, all three denied the charges and any accusation of racism. They each face nine charges, including murder and aggravated assault. Instead, they claimed whilst making a citizens arrest, Mr Arbery started to attack Travis, so the men opened fire, whilst Bryan filmed the incident.

Prosecutors state that Travis McMichaels used a racial slur whilst the victim lay bleeding to death on the floor. The family also proudly display a confederation flag on their car.

A 36-second video clip shows a vehicle following Mr Albery; as he jogs, he approaches a stationary pickup truck parked ahead of him. He tries to bypass the truck but is seen struggling with a man carrying a shotgun; a muffled shouting and three gunshots are heard. A second man is observed alongside the first, holding a pistol. It is unclear why Bryan filmed the attack and why the footage was not automatically passed on to the police.

Opening arguments in the case are set to start on 5th November 2021. It remains to be seen whether the family of Mr Arbery will receive any justice or whether the apparent bias of the jury will stand an appeal if needed.

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