More than a third of prospective jurors had already formed an opinion as to the defendants’ guilt, and nearly half had already formed a negative feeling towards one or more of the defendants.
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 Ahmaud 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 eighth group of prospective jurors put through the selection process, with each group nominally numbering 20 people.
The near-term goal is to have 64 “qualified” prospective jurors to be distilled down to the final 16 seated jurors in a third stage of jury selection. As of this morning, 42 prospective jurors had been “qualified.”
The court also began discussing with the attorneys the procedure to be used for the final, stage 3, voir dire of the final group of 64 “qualified” prospective jurors. In particular, there appeared to be some uncertainty about exactly how that stage 3 of voir dire would be conducted, given the sheer number of “qualified” prospective jurors to deal with.
Key Findings of Today’s General Voir Dire
- More than a third (35%) of prospective jurors had already formed an opinion as to the guilt of the defendants.
- Nearly half (40%) indicated they had already formed a negative opinion of one or more of the defendants.
- Half of prospective jurors had a relative or close friend working in law enforcement.
- Interestingly, a substantial majority (65%) had a relative or close friend who had been accused, arrested, prosecuted, or convicted of a serious crime.
- More than a third (35%) of prospective jurors had been victims of burglary or home invasion.
- Shockingly (for Georgia), a substantial majority (65%) indicated that they kept no guns whatever in their homes.
- Nearly half (40%) had previously supported in some manner Black Lives Matter or an #IrunwithAhmaud type movement.
- About two-thirds believed that people of color were not treated fairly by the criminal justice system or by police generally.
- Nearly half (45%) had an opinion about the time lapse between the date of the shooting, February 23, 2020, and the May 2020 arrest of the defendants.
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 Senior Assistant District Attorney Paul Camarillo (his second time at the podium) asking the substantive questions and Senior ADA Linda Dunikoski running through the witness list, 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 were essentially identical to his remarks from yesterday.
Here are Judge Walmsley’s four general voir dire questions to the prospective jurors, and their numbered responses:
Related by blood or marriage to any of the defendants or Ahmaud Arbery? No one.
Have you formed or expressed an opinion as to the guilt or innocence of the accused? 180, 181, 184, 165, 201, 204, 208
Do you have any prejudice or bias on mind either for or against the accused? No one.
Is your mind NOT perfectly impartial between the state and accused? No one.
At that point, he handed over general voir dire to the State, in the form of Senor ADA Paul Camarillo (his second time at the podium) and Senior ADA Linda Dunikoski.
Senior ADA Paul Camarillo & Senior ADA Linda Dunikoski
Senior ADA Camarillo took just about 40 minutes to work through roughly 80 questions, identical to those asked in previous general voir dire sessions, after which Senior ADA Dunikoski as well as to read through a lengthy list of prospective witnesses to see if any were known to the panel. Like yesterday, the state had about 80 general voir dire questions for the prospective jurors.
Do any of you know any of us [prosecutors]? No one.
Anyone does not currently reside in Glynn county? No one.
Anyone under the age of 18? No one.
Anyone convicted of felony and not had rights restored? No one.
Anyone sat on grand jury that returned this indictment in June 2020? No one.
Anyone currently POST-certified and arrest powers? 201
Anyone who is 70 or older and does not wish to serve? No one.
Anyone full-time student enrolled in and attending classes? No one.
Anyone full-time caretaker of child under 6 and no alternative care? No one.
Anyone full-time caretaker of elderly or handicapped and no alternative care? 180
Anyone have difficulty understanding English language? No one.
Anyone who has difficulty hearing? No one.
Anyone with non-work related conflict or hardship, like scheduled surgery, that would prevent giving full attention to trial, anticipated to run through Nov. 19? 57
Anyone related by blood or marriage to current Brunswick DA Keith Higgins? No one. Know him? 151
Anyone related by blood or marriage to former Brunswick DA Jackie Johnson? No one. Know her? 151
Have opinion about last year’s election where Johnson defeated by Higgins? No one.
Anyone have opinion why Cobb County DA office assigned to this case by GA AG? 180
Anyone who will be unable to give state a fair trial because we are from Cobb County?
Anyone know Jason Sheffield, Bob Rubin, represent Travis McMichael? Non one.
Anyone know Laura or Frank Hough, represent Greg McMichael? No one.
Anyone know Kevin Gough, represent Roddy Bryan? 151, 165
Know any of the defendants? 151, 210
Know Lindsey McMichael, sister of Travis? 210
Know mother of Travis? 210
Know Amy Elrod? 151
Anyone related by blood or marriage to current Waycross judicial circuit DA George Barnhill? No one. Know him? No one.
Know Barnhill Jr., former ADA now practicing law in Brunswick? 151
Related by blood or marriage to Atlantic judicial circuit DA Tom Durden? No one. Know him? No one.
Anyone know Ahmaud Arbery? 165, 124, 209, 162
Anyone know Ms. Wanda Cooper Jones, Ahmaud mother? 162, 124, 165
Anyone know father, Markus Arbery Sr.? 124, 165
Anyone know brother, Markus Arbery Jr.? 165
Anyone know Judge Walmsley? No one.
Anyone ever served on a jury to a verdict? 124, 208
Were you the foreperson? 124 yes, and 208 ?
Ever serve on a grand jury? 202
At some point leading up to trial, there were documents on clerk web site, anyone look at them? 180, 181
Ever serve in military? 201
Anyone have prior law enforcement training or experience? 180, 201
Anyone related to or close friend in law enforcement? 57, 180, 151, 181, 201, 204, 205, 208, 209, 210
Anyone ever worked in field of social work or have education in that field? 180
Anyone worked in counseling, psychology, or psychiatry, or education? 180
Any experience in the legal field? 151
Anyone work experience in criminal justice system, probation, prison, advocacy? 180, 201
Anyone close friend or relative in a DAs office, anywhere? 181
Anyone have medical training, beyond CPR? No one.
Anyone related to a criminal defense attorney, blood or marriage? No one.
Anyone personally know attorney in criminal justice field, prosecutor or defense? 151, 180
Anyone have a notable bad experience with law enforcement? No one.
Notable good experience with law enforcement? 180, 181, 124, 151, 208, 205, 210
Anyone had a notable bad experience with a prosecutor? No one.
Notable bad experience with a criminal defense lawyer? No one.
Anyone ever been accused, prosecuted, or convicted of any crime DUI or greater? 57, 151, 210
Anyone have a close friend or relative ever accused, prosecuted, convicted of a crime DUI or greater? 57, 162, 195, 199, 180, 184, 124, 165, 151, 204, 208, 209, 210
Anyone ever been falsely accused of a crime, whether involved police or not? 180, 205, 209
Anyone close friend or relative falsely accused of a crime? 208
Ever been victim of violent crime or crime against your person? No one.
Close friend or relative victim of violent crime or crime against their person? 151, 180, 124, 165
Anyone ever witnessed a violent crime in progress? No one.
Ever taken cell phone video of crime in progress? No one.
Anyone yourself, close friend or relative victim of burglary or home invasion. 162, 195, 180, 181, 151, 208, 209
Anyone yourself, or close friend or relative ever had gun stolen from home or car? 57, 208
Anyone ever had to call 911 to report a crime? 57
Anyone ever had to give statement to law enforcement, beyond traffic? 180, 181,
Anyone ever had to be a sworn witness in a trial? 180, 178, 124, 151
Anyone taken it upon themselves to investigate a crime, outside of work capacity? No one.
Anyone have close friend or relative taken upon themselves to investigate a crime? No one.
Do you recognize any other juror in the room here, also when summoned to court on first day? Two-part question. But also because of nature of that relationship, if chosen, you would not be able to make decision in the case. Like a boss, sibling, parent, etc. No one.
Anyone here NOT own a gun or keep gun in home? 57, 162, 195, 178, 151, 180, 165, 204, 202, 184, 135, 208, 210
Anyone ever carried a gun as part of job? 180, 201
Anyone ever had firearms training, outside of work? Or work, too, that’s fine. 180, 181, 151, 201
Anyone lived in Glynn county for less than five years? 195, 201, 205, 208
Anyone currently live Scitilla Shores neighborhood? 210 Previously? No one. Especially familiar? 178, 180, 199, 57, 209
Anyone currently live in the Royal Oaks neighborhood? No one. Previously? No one. Especially familiar? 180, 181, 199, 201
Anyone currently live in Fancy Bluff neighborhood? No one. Previously? 151, 202, Anyone especially familiar? 180, 199, 165, 202,
Anyone have a religious moral or ethical conviction that would prevent rendering a verdict? No one.
Anyone have personal reason unable to render a verdict? 57, 162, 204
Anyone who does NOT belong to a religious, fraternal, social, professional organization? 181, 195, 184, 201, 208, 209, 135
Anyone yourself, close friend, relative, was arrested and treated unfairly by the police? 165, 208, 209, 57
Anyone yourself or close friend or relative arrested or convicted of kidnapping or false imprisonment? No one.
Anyone yourself or close friend or relative ever arrested for shooting someone or shooting at someone? No one.
Anyone yourself or close friend or relative ever arrested or convicted of murder of any type? 184
Anyone feels will not be able to follow the law that judge gives you if you disagree with that law or don’t feel that’s what the law should be? No one.
Anyone who WANTS to serve on this jury? 205, 195,
Backed up, medical training for 208
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, Senior 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).
Sheffield’s questioning of the pool took about 15 minutes, asking about 20 questions identical to those he asked yesterday.
Anyone here know Travis McMichael, formerly Coast Guard? 57
Anyone here know Greg McMichael? 151, 210, 202
Anyone here know William “Roddy” Bryan? 181, 151, 165, 210
Any of you have a negative opinion of Travis McMichael? Or Greg McMichael or Roddy Bryan? 180, 181, 162, 195, 165, 204, 208, 210 (8/20)
Anyone have a negative opinion of criminal defense lawyers? No one.
Anyone ever decided to support or vote for political candidate with platform to limit gun laws? 202
Very poorly phrased.
Anyone opposes laws that allow people to carry firearms, openly or concealed, out into the public? 195, 202, 209
Anyone ever participated in any way with any demonstrations or marches centered on social justice issues, either before or after shooting? 162, 165
Anyone supported the Black Lives Matter movement or I run with Ahmaud, or justice for Ahmaud, whether that be a bumper sticker, sign in yard, post on social media, share a tweet or Facebook post, anyway? 162, 181, 180, 199, 124, 165, 204, 209 (8/20)
Feel ever been denied an opportunity because of your ethnicity or your race? 209
Feel you have ever been falsely accused because of your ethnicity or your race? 180, 124, 209
Agree that old Georgia flag, from 1956 to 2002, is a racist symbol? No one.
Agree that people of color are not treated fairly in criminal justice system? 57, 180, 181, 184, 162, 195, 199, 124, 135, 165, 208, 209
Agree that police in this country do not treat black and white folks equally? 57, 180, 181, 184, 162, 195, 199, 124, 135, 165, 204, 208, 209 (13/20)
Do you think that a psychologist or psychiatrist can find a mental illness in just about anybody? 181, 208
Have an opinion about the lapse of time between the incident date in this case, Feb. 23, 2020, and the arrest date in May of 2020? 180, 181, 199, 124, 165, 202, 204, 208, 210 (9/20)
Is there anything going on in your work or home that would inhibit your ability to give your full attention to trial, expected to run through Friday, November 19? 57, 178, 180, 204
Anyone have any mental or physical or psychological or hearing or visual impairment could inhibit ability to give your full attention to the trial? 57, 151, 204
Any of you concerned about your safety, or anything about your life, family, career, profession, based on your serving on this jury and rendering a verdict in this case? 181, 124, 151, 204, 208
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.
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:
You carry a gun so you’re hard to kill.
Know the law so you’re hard to convict.
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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