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The search for impartial jurors is posing a challenge in the murder trial of three White men accused of killing Ahmaud Arbery — because of viral video of the Black jogger’s death.
Potential jurors in the highly anticipated Georgia trial have admitted to being swayed by the video allegedly showing Arbery being shot at close range last year.
“I saw the news footage and I saw the video footage of the crime, and I’ve already formed a guilty opinion of the crime,” one potential juror told the court last week.
Another said, “Some things you can’t just unsee.”
Chatham County Superior Court Judge Timothy Walmsley wants an initial pool of 64 potential jurors from which a final panel of 12 jurors and four alternates will be selected. But so far, only 23 have been picked for the pool after one week of proceedings.
The judge said jury selection could take well into this week or the week after. The court was not in session Friday and will resume Monday.
Arbery, 25, was jogging through the Satilla Shores neighborhood in Brunswick on Feb. 23, 2020, when he was chased down by three white men — Greg McMichael, 65, his 35-year-old son, Travis McMichael, and local resident William “Roddie” Bryan, 52.
This combo of booking photos provided by the Glynn County, Ga., Detention Center, shows from left, Travis McMichael, his father Gregory McMichael, and William "Roddie" Bryan Jr.
(Glynn County Detention Center via AP)
The three men cornered Arbery, claiming they believed he was a burglar, with Travis McMichael confronting the jogger and shooting him dead with a shotgun.
Bryan shot footage of the deadly incident — which then went viral.
The shocking video presents a similar challenge to the one defense lawyers faced at the murder trial of ex-cop Derek Chauvin, who was convicted in the caught-on-video police custody death of George Floyd in Minneapolis.
In Arbery’s case, all three defendants face life in prison if convicted.
Defense attorneys claim the men acted in self-defense, noting that Arbery struggled over the shotgun when confronted by Travis McMichael.
They will also rely on Georgia’s citizen’s arrest statute, which was in place at the time but has since been retracted due to the outcry over Arbery’s death.
Two prosecutors recused themselves from the case because Greg McMichael is a former cop and investigator for two local district attorneys.
The case was ultimately turned over to Thomas Durden, the district attorney for the Atlantic Judicial District, but is being tried in Glynn County.
Lawyers on both sides of the case have abandoned the possibility that only potential jurors who have not seen the video will be picked — and are only seeking those who have not formed an opinion or are willing to hear all the facts before deciding.
Walmsley has made it clear he’s not happy with the slow pace, telling lawyers last week, “I am not comfortable with this.”
However, the high-profile nature of the case — and the viral video — will likely remain a challenge, Vanderbilt University law professor Chris Slobogin told Reuters.
“I mean, everyone’s seen this video,” he said. “I believe the judge will eventually find 12 jurors, but the work is to figure out if a person is being forthright when they say they can set aside what they saw.”
This story was originally published by the New York Post.
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