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Ahmaud Arbery’s mother said she was “shocked” only one Black person was selected to serve on the jury in the upcoming trial of three men accused of chasing down and killing Arbery in a suburban Georgia neighborhood last year.
“I mean, that was devastating,” she told CNN.
Jury selection was completed Wednesday after a long, complicated process to choose a jury to hear the case against Gregory McMichael, his son Travis McMichael, and their neighbor William “Roddie” Bryan Jr., who have been charged with malice, felony murder, aggravated assault, false imprisonment and criminal attempt to commit false imprisonment.
The jury panel consists of one Black member and 11 white members. Four alternate jurors—whose races were not disclosed—have also been selected to serve.
Prosecutors had asked Judge Timothy Walmsley to reinstate eight Black potential jurors after they alleged that the defense had intentionally struck Black candidates from the pool because of their race, USA Today reports.
Prosecutor Linda Dunikoski said the defense attorneys used nearly half of their strikes to remove Black jurors from the final jury pool, local station WSB-TV reports.
“They exercised 13 strikes against white jurors and 11 of the strikes against the African-American jurors,” she said.
According to data from the U.S. Census Bureau, Glynn County has a population consisting of about 26.6% of Black residents.
Although Walmsley agreed there appeared to be “intentional discrimination” he ruled the defense had reasons for striking the jurors that extended beyond race after hearing more than two hours of arguments.
“One of the challenges that I think counsel recognized in this case is the racial overtones in the case,” he said, according to CNN. “This is sort of the continuation of a conversation that I think will continue for a long time, with respect to this case.”
Walmsley said in the state of Georgia all the defense needed to do was “provide that legitimate, nondiscriminatory, clear, reasonably specific and related reason” for why they struck a given juror, which they had done.
“We are very pleased that we have been able to select now 16 members of this community,” Jason Sheffield, an attorney representing Travis McMichael, said as he left the courthouse, according to CNN. “Where this community can now decide the pending issues of this indictment, and we truly believe that they will do so fairly and in keeping with what we all understand about justice.”
However, Lee Merritt, an attorney for Arbery’s family, voiced frustration with the jury make-up on Twitter Wednesday.
“It took less than 2 seconds for prosecutors to announce an intent to challenge the defense team’s use of strikes— alleging racial bias,” he wrote. “Only one of the 16 potential jurors is African-American.”
The process to find jurors to sit on the panel was long and complicated.
After about 1,000 people were summoned to be part of the selection pool, less than half showed up, CNN reports.
Of those who did appear, many said they had already formed strong opinions about the case or were scared to sit on the jury of the racially charged case.
“This is the most complicated jury selection that I’ve ever been a part of,” said defense attorney Kevin Gough, who represents Bryan, according to USA Today.
The McMichaels are accused of gunning down Arbery, an 25-year-old Black man, on Feb. 23, 2020 while he was out for a jog in the suburban neighborhood of Brunswick. The killing was captured on video taken by Bryan, who also allegedly hit Arbery during the chase.
The McMichaels have said Travis McMichael acted in self-defense when he shot Arbery after the father and son were trying to make a citizen’s arrest, believing the 25-year-old had been burglarizing a nearby home in the area. Authorities have said Arbery was unarmed and there was no evidence he'd stolen anything.
All three men have pleaded not guilty to the charges against them.
Opening statements in the trial are expected to begin on Friday.
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