The jury, made up of 11 white members and one black member, was selected on Wednesday evening after a two-and-a-half-week selection process that ended with state prosecutors accusing defense attorneys of disproportionately striking qualified black jurors and basing some of their strikes on race.
The court heard arguments for over two hours on the merits of why the defense hit potential jurors before Judge Timothy Walmsley ultimately dismissed the state’s petition and found there were valid reasons, beyond race, for which jurors were removed.
Of the 16 selected jurors – including the four alternates – there are five men and 11 women, according to the reporter from the pool inside the courtroom.
Wanda Cooper-Jones, Arbery’s mother, said as she left the courthouse on Wednesday she was “shocked” that there was only one black juror.
Jurors must decide whether Gregory McMichael and his son, Travis McMichael, along with their neighbor William “Roddie” Bryan Jr., are guilty of malicious intent and murder. They pleaded not guilty. The accused also face charges of aggravated assault, forcible confinement and criminal attempt to commit forcible confinement.
Lee Merritt, an attorney for Arbery’s family, wrote on Twitter about the number of potential black jurors who remained, saying in an article: “Only one of the 16 potential jurors is African American.”
Jason Sheffield, an attorney for Travis McMichael, called the selection process “comprehensive,” but said he was satisfied with the outcome and felt the selected jurors would be fair.
“We are very happy to have been able to select 16 members of this community now,” Sheffield said as she walked out of the courthouse. “Where this community can now decide the outstanding issues of this indictment, and we truly believe it will do so fairly and in accordance with what we all understand to be justice.” “
The selection process was long
Arbery’s murder sparked national outrage after video of his shooting was made public. The 25-year-old black man was out jogging in Brunswick on February 23, 2020, when he was fatally shot.
The McMichaels said they were carrying out an arrest of Arbery’s citizen, suspected of burglary, and that Travis McMichael shot her with a shotgun in self-defense. Bryan, who recorded the video, hit Arbery with his truck after joining the McMichaels in chasing Arbery, a Georgia Bureau of Investigation agent said.
It was not until video of the shooting surfaced that the men were arrested.
Finding people to sit on the panel that will deliver the verdicts has been a long and difficult process that the judge himself seemed frustrated last month.
Of the 1,000 or so people summoned to the jury’s selection pool, less than half showed up.
No official reason was given for the low turnout, but of those who did come, many said they had already formed strong opinions on the case, knew the defendants, or were afraid to sit down. , highlighting the potential consequences the results of the case could have on the Glynn County community.
“I think it would be naive to think that there might not be any repercussions in the real world,” a woman told the lawyers last month at the start of the selection process.
The jury will be formed just before the opening statements. Judge told jurors to show up on Friday morning at 9 a.m.
Not enough ‘Bubba’ men, defense attorney said
Defense lawyers have previously expressed concern not only over the number of people who did not show up, but also those missing among those who did.
“It would appear that Southern-born white males over the age of 40 without a four-year college degree, sometimes euphemistically referred to as ‘Bubba’ or ‘Joe Six Pack’, appear to be significantly under-represented,” said defense attorney Kevin Gough. , who represents Bryan, said in court on Friday.
“Without wanting to be stereotypical in any way, I think there is a real question in this case as to whether this demographic is under-represented in this jury pool,” Gough added. “And if that’s the case, then we’ve got a problem with that. “
Sheffield, counsel for Travis McMichael, referred to the demographics again this week, noting that the low turnout in the jury selection process meant the pool was “not accurately reflecting the accused in this case, where the The accused cannot look across the courtroom and see people who are in the same situation as them.
But a jury should be representative of only race and gender, not socio-economic background, CNN legal analyst Page Pate said. There is usually a diversity of business circles among those summoned, Pate said.
“Jury participation is important, but only to establish the diversity of race and maybe gender, but not any ‘Bubba’ background, whatever it is,” Pate said. “I have represented doctors who have been tried. Now, was my jury made up of a group of doctors? Of course not. “
Glynn County, home to more than 85,000 people, is roughly 70% white and 27% black, according to 2019 data from the US Census Bureau.
“Even if there was no ‘Bubbas’, as long as the lawyers don’t expel people purely on racial grounds, there really is no problem,” Pate said. “You have no legal right to a pool of jurors rich in ‘Bubba’. “