The jury selection process in the trial of three white men charged with killing Ahmaud Arbery has continued with a slow start even as defense questions are direct.
Prosecutors and defense attorneys spent hours on Monday questioning 20 potential jurors in Glynn County. About 1,000 people in Glynn County received jury summons for the case.
The large juror pool represented the difficulty in the task of finding impartial jurors considering how Arbery’s killing dominated the news last summer.
However, the judge in the case, Superior Court Judge Timothy Walmsley has encouraged the lawyers to “streamline” their approach to speed up the process.
On a couple of occasions, Walmsely stopped defense attorneys when they asked jury panelists bluntly whether they already thought the defendants were guilty.
“You do not ask a potential juror what their opinion on guilt or innocence is,” Walmsley warned one attorney, calling the question “inappropriate.”
Walmsey also condemned other attorneys questioning those who expressed negative impressions of the men on how they would remain impartial.
Jason Sheffield, an attorney for defendant Travis McMichael, insisted lawyers need such forthright questions to set apart jury pool members who already have preconceived notions.
“Life is on the line and we feel like these are reasonable questions,” Sheffield said, defending his jury questioning.
For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below.
One jury panelist told attorneys he was sick of hearing about the case. Another wondered if she should fear for her safety should she be part of the final jury and the verdict angers some people.
Eight potential jurors were dismissed and the status of four others who had undergone individual questioning remained unresolved when court adjourned Monday evening.
Court officials have said jury selection could take more than two weeks. Prosecutor Linda Dunikoski told jury panelists the trial itself could push into the week before Thanksgiving.
The court has not identified the race of any of the prospective jurors.
The fatal shooting of Arbery on a residential street outside the port city of Brunswick on Feb. 23, 2020, sparked a national outcry after a cellphone video of the killing leaked online two months later. Father and son Greg and Travis McMichael and a neighbor, William “Roddie” Bryan, are charged with murder and other crimes in the 25-year-old Black man’s death.
Prosecutors say Arbery was merely jogging when the McMichaels grabbed guns and chased him in a pickup truck. Bryan joined the pursuit in his own truck and recorded the now-infamous cellphone video of Travis McMichael shooting Arbery three times at close range with a shotgun.
Defense attorneys insist the three men committed no crimes. Greg McMichael told police they believed Arbery was a burglar after security cameras previously recorded him entering a nearby home under construction. He said Travis McMichael fired in self-defense after Arbery punched him and tried to grab his weapon.
Prosecutors say there was no evidence that Arbery, who was unarmed, committed any crime.