Jury selection will begin Monday in the murder trial of three white men accused of killing Ahmaud Arbery last year.
The Glynn County court in Georgia has summoned 1,000 potential jurors for the highly anticipated trial in the shooting death, which was among the high-profile killings of black men that spurred Black Lives Matter nationwide demonstrations during summer 2020.
“So many people either know the defendants or the victim or know something about it,” Glynn County Superior Court Clerk Ronald Adams told the Associated Press last week. “You really don’t want to come up short on the number of qualified jurors that you have.”
Travis McMichael, his father Greg and their friend William “Roddie” Bryan are accused of chasing down Arbery, 25, when he was out for a run in Brunswick near his home on Feb. 23. Arbery, a former high school football star, often jogged in the area in his free time, his his family has said.
Bryan, a local resident, hopped into the truck to join the pursuit, hitting Arbery with the vehicle at one point before Travis McMichael allegedly shot him twice at close range with a shotgun. The case received little attention until Bryan’s video of the chase taken on his cellphone went viral on May 5.
The three men are charged with malice and felony murder. They also face aggravated assault, false imprisonment and criminal attempt to commit false imprisonment charges.
All three have denied murder. The McMichaels told police they chased Arbery down because they thought he matched the description of a burglary suspect caught on surveillance video at a construction site.
Lawyers for the men have maintained they acted in self-defense after Arbery attacked the McMichaels.
The trio went free for more than two months following Arbery’s death, before the Georgia bureau of investigations took over the case from the district attorney.
A former district attorney in Georgia was charged with attempting to shield the men who allegedly killed Arbery from hate crime charges. Jackie Johnson, former Brunswick Judicial Circuit District Attorney, was indicted for violating her oath of office and hindering a law enforcement officer. Robinson subsequently turned herself in.
Lee Merritt, a lawyer for Arbery’s family, said last year that the delay in detaining the men accused of murder was an example of the racial disparity of the justice system.
“All citizens are entitled to the same protection under the law,” he said. “This case makes it clear that all black citizens in south Georgia aren’t getting the same protection because if you shoot anybody in the street in broad daylight, just in general you expect at least an arrest. There were no arrests made.”
Earlier this month, the defendants asked a judge not to allow a photo of the Confederate vanity plate on their pickup truck to be included as evidence in the trial.
Last year, all three men were indicted on state murder charges and slapped with a federal hate crimes indictment in May. They’ve pleaded not guilty to the federal charges.
The case prompted the Georgia governor to repeal the Peach State’s citizens’ arrest law.
With Post Wires