The murder trial for three Georgia men accused of killing Ahmaud Arbery last February started with jury selection Monday morning. Father and son Greg and Travis McMichael, as well as their neighbor William “Roddie” Bryan, are charged with murder and other crimes related to Arbery’s death.
Prosecutors say Arbery was jogging on Feb. 23, 2020, when the McMichaels armed themselves with guns and chased him in a pickup truck. Bryan allegedly joined the pursuit in his own truck and recorded Travis McMichael shooting Arbery three times at close range with a shotgun.
Greg McMichael told police they pursued Arbery because they thought he was a burglar. They said security cameras previously recorded Arbery entering a nearby home under construction. Greg said Travis fired his gun in self-defense after Arbery attacked him, punching and trying to grab the weapon.
Arbery’s killing stoked outrage in the summer of 2020 when Black Lives Matter demonstrations broke out across the country following the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis. The McMichaels and Bryan weren’t charged and jailed until after the video of the shooting leaked online, more than two months after the shooting.
Due to the public and controversial nature of Arbery’s death, jury selection is expected to be a long and tedious process. It could last for two weeks or more. According to Glynn County Superior Court Clerk Ronald Adams, 600 jury pool members were ordered to report Monday.
Before jury selection even started, prospective jurors were mailed a questionnaire asking what they already know about the Arbery case, as well as what news outlets or social media platforms were their main sources of information. The form also asked whether they posted any online comments about Arbery’s killing, if they visited the scene of the shooting, or did other research into the case on their own.
Arbery’s father said he’s praying for an impartial panel and a fair trial. He says Black crime victims too often have been denied justice.
“This is 2021, and it’s time for a change,” Marcus Arbery Sr. said in an interview. “We need to be treated equally and get fair justice as human beings, because we’ve been treated wrong so long.”
Ultimately the judge needs to seat a jury of 12, plus four alternates who will be on standby to fill in for any jurors who get sick or are dismissed before the trial ends. Once a jury is seated, the trial itself could take more than two weeks, Adams said.