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Arbery Case Day 4 Wrap-Up: Media Asks Judge to Lift Gag Order from Attorneys

Arbery Case Day 4 Wrap-Up: Media Asks Judge to Lift Gag Order from Attorneys

The media representative argued that the gag order was so broad and ambiguous that it would inevitably have a chilling effect on the attorneys involved, who would surely err on the side of caution and generally decline to speak substantively to the media.

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.  Today was the fourth 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, with general (group) voir dire being conducted in the jury assembly room.  We’ll share our notes and video of the general voir dire proceedings with you here.

Key Findings of Today’s General Voir Dire

Of particular note from today’s general voir dire:

  • Nearly half (45%) of prospective jurors had already formed or expressed a belief in the guilt or innocence of the defendants.
  • Nearly half of prospective jurors (45%) had been victims of burglary or home invasion.
  • Three-fourths (75%) of prospective jurors owned firearms in their home (no shock, I guess, if only given their burglary/home invasion experience.)
  • A very large majority (85%) of prospective jurors indicated that they had never engaged in any demonstrations or marches in support of the social justice movement.
  • An even larger majority (90%) indicated that they’d never advocated for or supported the Black Lives Matter movement, even with mere bumper stickers or yard signs.
  • A still larger majority (95%) said that they did not consider the old Georgia state flag, based on a Confederate flag motif, to be a racist symbol.
  • A large majority of prospective jurors (80%) said that people of color are treated fairly by the criminal justice system.
  • On the other hand, almost half of prospective jurors (45%) said that the police, generally, did not treat white and black people equally.

Media Intervenor Asks Judge to Lift Gag Order

Even before we got to today’s general voir dire, however, there was a motion in court by a representative of the media (a “media intervenor”) in which the media collectively was asking Judge Walmsley to lift his long-standing gag order on the attorneys involved in this trial.

The media representative argued that the gag order was so broad and ambiguous that it would inevitably have a chilling effect on the attorneys involved, who would surely err on the side of caution and generally decline to speak substantively to the media.

Judge Walmsley’s response was to act a bit incredulous and remind the media that they are free to get any actual information about the case from the court clerk, in terms of motions and filings and such.

This, of course, left the media representative unsatisfied, because interviews with the attorneys would make for compelling broadcast content, but written motions do  not.

Judge Walmsley indicated that he would take the matter under advisement.  When the media representative then asked if they should expect a copy of the judge’s decision in written form—presumably for purposes of appeal, if the decision went against them, the judge rather coolly gave him a “when the phone doesn’t ring you’ll know it’s me” response.

At that point Defense Counsel Bob Rubin, one of Travis McMichael’s lawyers, informed the court that he, too, would like the gag order relaxed.  Defense Counsel Kevin Gough, one of “Roddy” Bryan’s lawyers, agreed that it would be nice if the gag order was relaxed, but noted that the court had many motions from defense counsel waiting for decisions, and those presumably would receive priority over the media’s complaints.

(As an aside, Attorney Gough also informed the court of some incidental contact he’d had with a son of one of the prospective jurors, but I don’t expect much to come from that other than possibly the dismissal of that prospect from the jury pool. )

You can enjoy that media intervenor exchange here:

General Voir Dire

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 nearly half of the prospective jurors (45% 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 jury related by blood or marriage to any defendant or Ahmaud Arbery? No one.

Judge: Formed any opinion with regard to guilt or innocence of accused? 212, 218, 219, 221, 223, 235, 237, 240, 247 (9/20)

Judge: Any prejudice or bias either for or against accused? 218, 235, 221.

Judge: Same question negative: Is your mind NOT perfectly impartial between the state and the accused? 235

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 just over 37 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.  Some notable findings from the State’s general voir dire include:

  • Nearly half of prospective jurors (45%) had been victims of burglary or home invasion.
  • Three-fourths (75%) of prospective jurors owned firearms in their home (no shock, I guess, if only given their burglary/home invasion experience.)

Like yesterday, the state had about 80 general voir dire questions for the prospective jurors.

Anybody know any of the prosecutors? No one.

Anyone not reside in Glynn County? No one.

Under the age of 18? No one

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

Anyone who last June of 2020 sat on grand jury that returned THIS indictment? No one.

Anyone here a POST certified LEO with arrest powers? 211 (sounds like a former LEO, misunderstood what “POST” means in this context), 258

Anyone 70+ who does not want to serve? 212

Anyone a full-time student currently enrolled, full class load –[BRIEF BROADCAST FAILURE]

Anyone have non-work related personal issue that would prevent participation as juror? Surgery? 228, 237, 242

People you may know: Anyone related by blood or marriage to local DA Keith Higgins? No one. Know him personally? 223, 236

Former DA Jackie Johnson, anyone related? No one. Know personally? 223, 236

Any opinion about last year’s election where Johnson defeated and Higgins elected new DA? 212, 221, 236

Anyone have opinion why Cobb County DA Office, where we prosecutors are from, why GA AG assigned us to prosecute this case? 236

Anyone here not going to be able to give state fair trial because we are not from Glynn County, from Marietta GA? No one.

Anyone know current Waycross judicial circuit DA, Barnhill (sr.)

Know Barnhill Jr. former DA, now in private practice in Brunswick? 236

Know Tom Durden, Atlanta district DA? Or his ADAs? No one.

Know any regional DAs? 236

Anybody know defendant’s attorneys: Sheffield & Rubin (Travis) No one.

Anybody know defendant’s attorneys: Laura & Frank Hogue (Greg) No one.

Anybody know defendant’s attorneys: Kevin Gough (Bryan). 236

Anyone familiar with Gough, he resides as attorney here in town, had dealings with him as local attorney? 212, 223, 236

Anyone here personally know Travis McMichael? 242, 255

Anyone know Greg McMichael? 236, 242, 223

Anyone know William “Roddy” Bryan? 223, 242, 255

Anyone know Amy Elrod? 242

Know Lee McMichael, Greg’s wife? 242, 223

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

Did anyone know Ahmaud Arbery, victim in this case. No one.

Wanda Cooper Jones, Arbery’s mother? 223

Markus Arbery Sr, father of Ahmaud? 223, 240

Markus Arbery Jr., brother of Ahmaud. 223, 240

Anyone ever sat on a jury, to point of verdict? 221 253, 258

Were any of you three the foreperson? None.

Was your jury able to reach a verdict? All three affirmative.

Anyone ever sat on a grand jury? No one.

Know Judge Walmsley? No one.

When you got jury summons, link to web site, some court documents from this case–not a big deal if you looked at those documents, but if you did you need to let us know. 221, 223, 235, 237, 253

Anyone served in military? 211, 246

Anyone here has prior LEO training or experience? 211, 258

Anyone here closely related or friend who is in law enforcement? 211, 234, 236, 242, 253, 258

Anyone have experience in field of social work? 212, 246

Anyone have background in psychiatry, psychology, counseling? No one.

Have experience in the legal field, lawyer, paralegal, admin assistant at law firm? 212, 236

Now about criminal justice system–work experience in that system? Probation, ministering at a prison, advocacy, anything like that? 211

Family member or close friend in ANY DA office anywhere? 258

Anyone have substantive medical training? 219, 228

Anyone here had notable bad experience with law enforcement officer? 212

Notable good experience with law enforcement? 219, 247, 253

Anyone here related by blood or marriage to criminal defense attorney? No one.

Anyone personally know lawyer in criminal justice system as prosecutor or defense? 221, 223, 235, 246, 258

Anyone had a notable bad experience with a prosecutor, anywhere? No one.

Notable good experience with prosecutor? 258

Have you personally ever arrested or convicted of DUI or more serious? 218

Close friends or family arrested or convicted of DUI or more serious? 212, 236, 246, 255, 258

Anyone falsely accused of a crime? 212

Close friend or relative falsely accused of a crime? No one.

Anyone victim been victim of a crime against your person? 212, 221, 223

Close friend or relative who has been victim of crime against person? 211, 240, 246

Ever witnessed a crime in progress? 211, 234, 258

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

Anyone here ever been a victim of burglary or home invasion? 212, 223, 235, 236, 246, 247, 253, 255, 258 (9/20)

Anyone have close friend or relative victim of burglary or home invasion? 212, 223, 234

Anyone here, you yourself, or close friend or relative, have a gun stolen out of your car? 247, 255

Anyone ever had to call 911 to report a crime? 258

Anyone ever had to give a statement to law enforcement, outside traffic situations? 212, 219, 211, 223, 234, 235

Anyone ever been a witness at trial, sworn testimony? 211, 228, 236, 246, 255, 258

Close friend or family member who has taken upon self to investigate a crime? No one.

Ever taken upon yourself to investigate a crime (other than if you are law enforcement, in personal life)? No one.

Monday, at Selden Park (initial day to report for jury duty?), recognize anybody else there? 228, 246, 253, 237, 258

Know anybody else in the room? No one.

Anyone in your household own a firearm? 211, 219, 221, 223, 228, 234, 235, 236, 237, 242, 247, 253, 255, 258 (14/20)

Ever had to carry gun for job? 211, 258

Anyone have non-military firearms training, 211, 253, 258

Lived in Glynn county less than 5 years 234, 253

Particularly familiar with neighborhood? 223, 237, 247, 219

Currently reside in Scitilla Shores neighborhood? No one.

Previously lived? No one.

Particularly familiar with that neighborhood? 223, 228, 236, 237

Anyone currently lives in Royal Oaks neighborhood? No one.

Previously lived? No one.

Across 17 from Royal Oaks is Fancy Bluff neighborhood, Boykins Drive, anyone particularly familiar with that neighborhood. 223, 248, 247

Currently living in Fancy Bluff? 247

Previously lived there? No one.

Anyone have a religious, moral, ethical conviction against passing judgment, would prevent arriving at verdict, guilty or not guilty? No one.

Anyone have PRIVATE reason unable to pass judgment, render verdict? No one.

Anyone here who does NOT belong to any social group, no church, no professional organization, no clubs, no leagues, nothing? 219, 234, 246, 237, 255, 261

Anyone here, close friend, relative, arrested and thought were treated unfair by police or criminal justice system? 253

Friend or relative ever arrested for kidnapping or false imprisonment? No one.

Friend or relative ever arrested for shooting someone? 223 [Ironically enough.]

Anyone here, close friend, relative, arrested for murder? No one.

Anyone feel unable to follow law as instructed by Judge Walmsley? No one.

Anyone here who WANTS to serve on this jury? 219, 246, 261

ADA  Dunikoski then read through her extensive list of possible witnesses, inquiring as to each if any of the jurors knew any of them.

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

Defense Counsel Jason Sheffield

Defense Counsel Jason Sheffield conducted the general voir dire for the defense as a whole (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, nor objection from the court.  Accordingly, I expect this will be done in every general voir dire.

Sheffield also managed to draw a rather outraged objection from the ADA Dunikoski in his introductory remarks to the jury, when he described the prosecutors as representing the State of Georgia, and the defense lawyers as representing the Georgia Constitution and US Constitution.  You can enjoy that little exchange here:

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

  • A very large majority (85%) of prospective jurors indicated that they had never engaged in any demonstrations or marches in support of the social justice movement.
  • An even larger majority (90%) indicated that they’d never advocated for or supported the Black Lives Matter movement, even with mere bumper stickers or yard signs.
  • A still larger majority (95%) said that they did not consider the old Georgia state flag, based on a Confederate flag motif, to be a racist symbol.
  • A large majority of prospective jurors (80%) said that people of color are treated fairly by the criminal justice system.
  • On the other hand, almost half of prospective jurors (45%) said that the police, generally, did not treat white and black people equally.

Sheffield’s questioning of the pool took about 13 minutes (exclusive of a short restroom break), asking about 20 questions identical to those he asked yesterday.

Any of you know Greg McMichael–new people who have not raised hand before? No one.

Any of you know Roddy Bryan? 219, 223

Anyone have a negative thought about Travis McMichael? 218, 219, 221, 240

Negative thought about Greg McMichael? 218, 219, 221, 235

Negative thought about Roddy Bryan? 218, 219, 221, 240

Do you have NO firearms in your home? 212, 218, 240, 246, 261

On the subject of firearms, raise hand if ever supported cause or candidate who had platform to limit guns or gun right, in any way. 221

Anyone oppose laws that currently allow people to carry firearms openly or concealed into public places? 221, 246

Raise hand if participated in any demonstrations or marches related to social justice movement? Before or after the shooting in this case? 221, 246, 240

Anyone been advocate of or supported Black Lives Matter movement, financial support, bumper stickers, signs in yard, anything like that. 221, 246

Anyone feel ever denied opportunity based on ethnicity or race? No one.

Think you’ve ever been falsely accused or profiled based on your ethnicity or race? No one.

Anyone agree that old Georgia state flag, from 1956 to 2002, is a symbol of racism? 221

Anyone agree that people of color are not treated fairly in the criminal justice system? 218, 221, 246, 261

Anyone agree that police in this country, this exists, do not treat white and black people equally? 212, 218, 219, 221, 235, 237, 240, 246, 261 (9/20)

Do you believe that psychologists or psychiatrists could find a mental illness in just about anybody? 218

Do you have anything going on at home or in work, professional life, that would inhibit your ability to concentrate over the course of this trial? May last several weeks, and whatever is happening will cause you to divert your attention? 235, 240, 242

Anyone have a mental, physical, visual, auditory hearing issue, anything going on with your health that would cause you to be distracted? Some people need lots of breaks, get tired, fall asleep, can’t hear, anything like that would keep you from paying attention, 9-5, to evidence? 212, 228

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 were 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.

Law of Self Defense © 2021
All rights reserved.

 

 

 

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Comments

The Packetman | October 21, 2021 at 6:23 pm

First off, thank you for your coverage Andrew!

Second, are you doing any tracking on who’s answering certain questions certain ways? For example, from today we have juror #221 has negative feelings about all three defendants, doesn’t support legal carriage of firearms, has voted for anti-gun politicians, protested for social justice causes, and supports BLM (though, notably, answered NO to not having firearms).

Again, we appreciate your time and effort (and Prof Jacobson for helping to make it possible!)!

Andrew, great job!

Do you know when “for cause” challenges will be entertained? Will the Court make everyone go through the entire panel before dismissing those to be challenged for cause, presumably such as Packetman’s favorite juror #221?

I am normally dealing with a panel of 30 or fewer prospects, supplemented by groups of 10 additional potential jurors as needed, so it is not the same magnitude as this judge and these attorneys are facing!

Did “the intervenor” ever pose in red flannel pajamas, with a sippy cup?

Trials are complicated and confusing to me, most of the time. Ty Andrew, for untangling the knots, so to speak.

BTW, Wednesday I just picked up my brand new GA carry permit.

Methinks the only criminals in this courtroom are the prosecutors who brought these false and malicious charges and the judge who did not dismiss immediately dismiss them.

I thought this was interesting: “Anyone here who does NOT belong to any social group, no church, no professional organization, no clubs, no leagues, nothing? 219, 234, 246, 237, 255, 261”

So 6/20, or about 30%, have no civic association at all. I wonder if these are your MSNBCNN Democrats with a couple of Libertarians (“Leave me alone”) thrown in?

And interestingly, 2 of the 3 in this pool who want to serve on the jury are also in this group who claim no associations.

Just makes me go “Hmmm.”

    It doesn’t seem strange to me but some of that depends on what stage of life you are in, what interests you may have, resources, location and such. In southern areas folks are outdoors and see each other more often during the course of the year than they do in other places. Having children can influence a lot of factors in your schedule.

    Haha, yeah, I worry about people who want to serve on jury duty, too. Where I live it is very difficult and costly to get to the District Court and I have dreaded being summoned but complied, anyway. Fortunately, never had to serve.

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