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Arbery Case Day 3 Wrap-Up: Juror Concerned Media Leaking Identifying Information

Arbery Case Day 3 Wrap-Up: Juror Concerned Media Leaking Identifying Information

Substantial majorities of today’s prospective jurors believed that people of color are treated fairly by the police particularly (68%) and the criminal justice system generally (79%).

Welcome back to our ongoing coverage of the Ahmaud Arbery case, in which defendants Greg McMichael, Travis McMichael, and William Bryan are being tried for murder and other charges in the shooting death of Arbery.  I am, of course, Attorney Andrew Branca, for Law of Self Defense.

Today the court proceeded with jury selection, or voir dire, in the case, with the goal of empaneling 12 jurors and 4 alternates.  Although Judge Wamsley presiding over the trial had initially expected jury selection would take no longer than two weeks, the unexpectedly slow pace of voir dire in these first few days has led him to become concerned that jury selection could, in fact, take longer than that.

Key Findings from General Voir Dire

Of particular note from today’s general voir dire:

  • Nearly 60% of today’s prospective jurors indicated that they had already formed or expressed an opinion as to the guilt or innocence of the accused.
  • Nearly half (47%) of today’s prospective jurors had formed a negative feeling about one or more of the defendants.
  • Nearly 70% of today’s prospective jurors owned firearms kept within their household.
  • About 37% of today’s prospective jurors had obtained non-military training in firearms.
  • Substantial majorities of today’s prospective jurors believed that people of color are treated fairly by the police particularly (68%) and the criminal justice system generally (79%).
  • Nearly half (47%) of today’s prospective jurors indicated that they had circumstances at work or home that would diminish their ability to focus their full attention on the trial if called to serve as jurors.

Juror Concerned Media Leaking Identifying Information

Also notable today was that at the start of the defense general voir dire, one of the jurors expressed concern that apparently members of the media were releasing some very specific details about the jurors, such as the names of colleges from which they had graduated–information that might be used by others to identify the jurors.

Judge Walmsley indicated that he’d been made aware of this kind of thing happening, had spoken to the media to clarify the importance of the anonymity of the jury, and reassured them that their anonymity would be maintained.

Well, OK, then.

Third Group of “20” Prospective Jurors

Today’s was the third group of prospective jurors put through the selection process, with each group nominally numbering 20 people.

Today’s voir dire process mirrored that of yesterday—a fresh group of 20 prospective jurors were brought in for general voir dire this morning (although one was immediately dismissed for medical reasons, leaving a group numbering 19).

General voir dire is occurring in a room other than the courtroom, to best accommodate the relatively large size of each group of prospective jurors.  We’ll share our notes and video of the general voir dire proceedings with you here.

After general voir dire was complete, the court moved back to the courtroom, where individual voir dire involving questioning of prospective jurors one at a time was undertaken.  As was the case yesterday, while broadcast cameras provide video of the defendants and defense counsel during individual voir dire, the audio is muted, so there’s little to be learned from these individual voir dire broadcasts.

Once again today’s general voir dire was a four stage process, with welcoming remarks and a few questions from Judge Walmsley, then extensive questioning by Prosecutor Linda Dunikoski, more succinct questioning by Defense Counsel Jason Sheffield, and finally closing remarks and cautions by Judge Walmsley, after which the court transitioned into individual voir dire.

Judge Walmsley Welcomes and Questions Prospective Jurors

As one would expect, Judge Walmsley’s opening remarks to the prospective jurors today was essentially identical to his remarks from yesterday.

It was here that a substantial majority of the prospective jurors (60% of them) indicated that they had already formed or expressed an opinion of guilt or innocence of the accused.

Here are Judge Walmsley’s four general voir dire questions to the prospective jurors, and their numbered responses:

Judge: Any of you related by blood or marriage to any of defendants or Ahmaud Arbery? No one.

Judge: Have you formed or expressed opinion of guilt or innocence of accused? #152, #150, #156, #146, #161, #164, #167, #170, #172, #175, #176 (11 total, 60%))

Judge: Any prejudice or bias in mind either for or against accused? #150, #172

Judge: Is your mind NOT perfectly impartial between the state and accused? #146, #150, #152, #156, #158 (5 total)

At that point he handed over general voir dire to the State, in the form of Senior ADA Linda Dunikoski.

Senior ADA Linda Dunikoski

Once again, ADA Dunikoski took about 40 minutes to work through roughly 80 questions identical to those she asked yesterday, as well as to read through a lengthy list of prospective witnesses to see if any were known to the panel.  There were no particularly notable responses, individually or collectively, to the State’s questions.

Anyone not live in Glynn County? No one.

Anyone under 18? No one.

Anyone convicted of felony, not had rights restored? No one.

Indictment returned June 2020, anyone sit on that grand jury? No one.

Anyone here who is POST certified LEO with arrest powers? No one.

Anyone 70 or older and does not wish to serve on this jury? #156, #148.

Anyone here full-time student enrolled and attending classes? No one?

Anyone here full-time caretaker of child under 6 and no other care possible if on jury? #146

Anyone here full-time caretaker of elderly or handicapped? #139

Anyone here difficulty understanding English? No one.

Anyone have difficulty hearing? #139, #156

Hearing issue, add #148

Anticipate trial to last through November 19, Friday before Thanksgiving.  If have non-work personal conflict, e.g., open heart surgery next week, want to know about that now. #152, #143, #172, #175, #176

Anyone related by blood or marriage to current Brunswick DA Keith Higgins? No one. Anybody personally know him? #150.

Related by blood or marriage to former DA Jackie Johnson? No one. Know her personally?  #138, #161.

DA assigned to this case, Cobb County DA Flynn Brody–related by blood/marriage or know personally? No one.

Anyone know us three prosecutors? No one.

Any opinion on last year’s election where DA Johnson defeated by new DA Keith Higgins. #150, #152, #167.

Need to double check above numbers.

Any questions about why Cobb County assigned by GA AG? #152.

Unable to give state fair trial because we are not from Glynn County? No one.

Anyone related to former Glynn County ADA George Barnhill, prosecutor, or his son, Barnhill Jr.? No one.

Atlantic circuit DA Durden? No one.

Anyone know Sheffield or Rubin, defense attorneys? No one.

Know Laura or Frank Hogue, defense attorneys? No one.

Keven Gough, local attorney, defense attorney? No one. Worked with him, know of him? #158, #170, #172.

Know any of the defendants? #161

Know Ms. Amy Elrod? #172, #175

Know Lee McMichael, Greg’s wife? No one. Lindsey McMichael, Greg’s daughter? No one.

Did anyone know Ahmaud Arbery? #146, #161

Know Arbery’s mother, Wanda Cooper Jones? No one.

Markus Arbery Sr, Ahmaud father, #164, #172

Markus Arbery Jr., brother? No one.

Anyone previously served on jury, to verdict? #148, #152, #170, #143, #172

Any of you foreperson? #152, #170

Of five of you, jury able to reach verdict? All of the five, except juror #170 one time did reach verdict second time did not.

Anyone serve on any grand jury? No one.

Anyone know Judge Walmsley? No one.

When notified of jury duty, linked to web site, were some court documents on this case there, if you looked, need to let us know now. #152

Served in military? #150, #143, #158, #176

Prior law enforcement training or experience? #143, #158, #167

Close personal friend or relative involved in law enforcement. #140, #146, #152, #160, #164, #167, #172, #176

Experience in the field of social work? No one.

Work experience in counseling, psychology, psychiatry? No one.

Experience in legal field, lawyer, paralegal, assistant in legal firm? No one.

Experience in criminal justice system, worked probation department, mentored at a prison, etc. #167

Related or close friend who worked in DA office. #146, #158, #167

Anyone with medical training? No one.

Related or close friend who is criminal defense attorney? #158

Anyone personally knows an attorney who works within criminal justice system, prosecutor or defense attorney? #150

Anyone had a notable bad experience with law enforcement? #150, #167

Notable good experience? #146, #150, #138, #167

Notable bad experience with a prosecutor? No one.

Good experience with a prosecutor? #158

Convictions for crimes–like DUI or more serious. Not traffic tickets.

Have you ever been arrested or convicted? #140, #150, #170, #176

Close friend or relations who have been convicted of DUI or more serious?  #139, #140, #146, #148, #150, #156, #164, #167, #175, #176

Anyone here falsely accused of crime, involved police or not? No one.

Close friend or relative falsely accused of crime? #150

Being the victim of a crime–anyone here feels they’ve been victim of a crime against their person? Violent crime. No one.

Close friend or relative victim of violent crime? #139, #150, #152, #172

Any of you witnessed a crime in progress? #139, #140, #143, #158, #167

Ever taken a cell phone video of crime in progress? No one.

Burglary and home invasion–ever been victim? #139, #156, #164, #170

Close relative or friend victim of burglary or home invasion? #139, #152, #175

Ever had to call 911 to report a crime? #139, #140, #164

Ever had to give statement to law enforcement re: a crime? #139, #140, #143, #164

Anyone ever been a sworn witness at trial? #140, #152, #158, #170

Ever taken it upon self to investigate a crime? #158

Know anybody who has done so? #158

Do you know anybody else in the room, other prospective jurors present? #172, #164, #158

On Monday, showed up at courthouse, recognize people you knew? #138, #140, #146, #148, #161, #164, #172

Do you or someone in household own a firearm? #139, #140, #143, #146, #150, #156, #158, #160, #161, #164, #167, #170, #176

13 of 19 own a gun. (68%)

Carry a gun for job? #139, #143, #148, #167

Non-military training in firearms? #139, #140, #143, #156, #158, #167, #170

Have you lived in Glynn County less than 5 year? #139, #156, #175, #176

Currently reside in Scitilla Shores neighborhood? No one. Previously? No one. Particularly familiar with neighborhood? #146.

Live in Royal Oaks neighborhood? No one. Previously? No one. Familiar with? #172.

Familiar road Boykin Ridge, Fancy Bluff neighborhood? Live there? No one. Previously? No one. Familiar with. #146, #164, #172

Religious, moral, ethical conviction would prevent you from passing judgment on someone else? Can’t decide guilty or not guilty? #172

Private reason for not being able to arrive at verdict? No one.

Anyone here who does NOT belong to any social, fraternal, or religious organization? No professional association, no bowling league, etc. Nothing like that. #138, #139, #150, #167, #176

Do you have relative or close friend ever been arrested and thought circumstances were police or criminal justice system didn’t treat that person fairly? #152, #175

Relative or close friend arrested for kidnapping or false imprisonment? No one.

Relative or close friend arrested for shooting someone? #158

Relative or close friend arrested for murder? #164

Judge Walmsley will give you law in this case, anyone feel they will not be able to follow law? No one.

Anyone here who WANTS to serve on jury? No one.

Having completed her questioning of the prospective jurors, ADA Dunikoski turned the pool over to the defense.

Defense Counsel Jason Sheffield

It seems that defense counsel Jason Sheffield was selected from among the greater group of defense attorneys to ask their general voir dire questions on behalf of all them (although, technically speaking, he represents only Travis McMichael).

It is notable that Sheffield again introduced Travis McMichael as “former Coast Guard,” without objection from either State prosecutors (they had objected forcefully the first time this was done), nor objection from the court.  Accordingly, I expect this will be done in every general voir dire.

Sheffield’s questions elicited several of the more notable findings from today’s general voir dire, including:

  • Nearly half (47%) of today’s prospective jurors had formed a negative feeling about one or more of the defendants.
  • Nearly 70% of today’s prospective jurors owned firearms kept within their household.
  • About 37% of today’s prospective jurors had obtained non-military training in firearms.
  • Substantial majorities of today’s prospective jurors believed that people of color are treated fairly by the police particularly (68%) and the criminal justice system generally (79%).
  • Nearly half (47%) of today’s prospective jurors indicated that they had circumstances at work or home that would diminish their ability to focus their full attention on the trial if called to serve as jurors.

Sheffield’s questioning of the pool took about 18 minutes, asking about 20 questions identical to those he asked yesterday.

Recognize Travis McMichael, formerly of Coast Guard?

How about father Greg McMichael? #161, previously mentioned.

How about Bryan? #161, again.

Have you formed a negative feeling about the defendants?

Negative feeling about Travis McMichael? #148, #150, #152, #156, #167, #164, #170, #172, #176

Negative feeling about Greg McMichael? #150, #156, #148, #164, #167, #170, #176

Negative feeling about Roddy Bryan? #148, #150, #156, #164, #167, #170, #172, #176

Negative feelings about defense lawyers generally? No one.

Anyone have NO firearms in home? #138, #148, #152, #167, #168, #172, #175

Ever supported a political candidate because they intended to LIMIT gun rights in any way? No one.

Anyone oppose laws that allow people to carry guns on person in public? No one.

Ever participated in any demonstrations or marches related to social justice movement, either prior to or after shooting in this case? Signs, etc.? No one.

Sheffield: Have you participated or supported in any way the BLM movement, very important movement in our country and community, even if just in thoughts or prayers or funding, signs, bumper stickers, anything like that. #156, #143, #146, #164, #167, #172

Ever been denied opportunity because of ethnicity or race? Job, access, membership, whatever. No one.

Ever been falsely accused or placed under suspicion because of ethnicity or race? No one.

Anyone feel old Georgia state flag, 1956-2002, was a racist symbol? No one.

Anyone agree POC not treated fairly in criminal justice system? #148, #150, #172, #176

Now, about police, generally, believe that police generally treat POC and white people differently or unequally? #148, #150, #156, #164, #167, #176

Psychology–anyone feels that psychologist or psychiatrist could find mental illness in just about anybody? #150, #152, #139, #167,

Anything happening at work or home that would diminish your ability to focus full attention while serving on this jury? #138, #139, #140, #146, #152, #164, #172, #175, #176

Any mental, visual, hearing, physical impairment keep you from comfortably sitting for long periods of time? Be distracted as a result? #139, #156, #164

Lastly, any general concern that after this case could suffer some kind of consequence that would cause you to have a tough time serving on this jury, in some way service on this jury would create problems for you in your life. Hope everybody understands what I’m saying. That this particular case could cause you to have problems in your life afterwards?

No one.

After the defense had worked through its questions, the proceedings were returned to Judge Walmsley.

Judge Walmsley Closing Remarks and Cautions to Prospective Jurors

Judge Walmsley informed the prospective jurors that they’d take a short recess and then transition into individual voir dire in which they would be questioned separately to follow up on these and other questions.

He cautioned them that until he instructs them otherwise that they were not to discuss the case amongst themselves or others, not to search out information about the case, not visit the neighborhoods involved, none of that.  Further, if anyone approaches them about the case, or is discussing the case within their hearing, they are to notify the court.

And with that the court recessed, to come back into session a short time later with individual voir dire.

Individual Voir Dire: No Useful Coverage

As noted, individual voir dire is broadcast without sound, so that broadcast is of little use for purposes of analysis.  Basically the broadcast of individual voir dire consists of video of this scene, without sound, for hours:

Presumably local journalists will be reporting the bare facts such as how many jurors were dismissed and how many seated, and we’ll share that information with all of you as it comes our way.

OK, folks, that’s all I have for you on these jury selection proceedings today.

Until next time:

Remember

You carry a gun so you’re hard to kill.

Know the law so you’re hard to convict.

Stay safe!

–Andrew

Attorney Andrew F. Branca
Law of Self Defense LLC

Nothing in this content constitutes legal advice. Nothing in this content establishes an attorney-client relationship, nor confidentiality. If you are in immediate need of legal advice, retain a licensed, competent attorney in the relevant jurisdiction.

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Comments

So the judge “clarified’ the importance of jury anonymity to the media, who will now take that as a challenge to their ability to influence the verdict. Might as well begin constructing the gallows now.

    randian in reply to Fred Idle. | October 20, 2021 at 7:47 pm

    The simpler plan would be to influence the jury’s families. Make them afraid of what might happen to them if an innocent verdict is returned, and they in turn influence the jurors.

    “Might as well begin constructing the gallows now.”

    For the media, the jurors or for the murderers?

Intimidation of needs to be harshly punished.

The juror intimidation was successful in the Chauvin case because the trial became very technical early on and when presented with he wild speculation from the prosecution’s witness, it was easy to just go with it. Essentially, the prosecution created enough fog that jurors could do the easy thing and just give in to political pressure.

Is there enough material in this case that will be susceptible to the same kind of expert-technical snow job such that the political pressure will be successful?

Just want to say, thank you for covering these in such detail.

I’ve lost much faith in the fair and impartial application of law lately, but understanding how a system is supposed to work is still important to maintaining and restoring it.

If you know one juror is worried about being outed by the media there has to be more potential jurors that think the same thing.

This doesn’t bode well for our court system and defendants especially with big public cases like this one.

Rodney King was a huge trial in the country but the jurors weren’t worried about being attacked after the trial for their verdict so they could render a verdict based on the evidence. Now it’s in the back of every jurors head that a verdict that goes against what the mob wants could be met with harassment at home and work. This could push a juror to vote a certain way regardless of the evidence.

Also I’d also be worried about woke government employees in the court system who’d leak the information.

James B. Shearer | October 21, 2021 at 12:22 am

“Is there enough material in this case that will be susceptible to the same kind of expert-technical snow job such that the political pressure will be successful?”

This seems like a simpler case. It will boil down to how the jury sees the defendants actions prior to Arbury getting shot. If the defendants actions weren’t lawful then they have little defense. The worry for the lawyers is that the jury will judge the defendants actions by what seems reasonable to the jury rather than what the law was.

Capsaicin_Addict | October 21, 2021 at 11:11 am

I really hope the judge’s clarification to the media was:

“If you leak any identifying info about the jury, I will declare a mistrial immediately. Go ahead, test me.”

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