Fully 75% of jurors begin voir dire with negative feeling towards defendants; nearly half already have an opinion as to guilt
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 ninth 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 the third stage of jury selection. As of this morning, 47 prospective jurors had been “qualified.”
Key Findings of Today’s General Voir Dire
- A large majority of 75% of prospective jurors came to jury selection having already formed a negative feeling towards one or more of the defendants.
- Nearly half (40%) of them had already formed an opinion on the guilt of the defendants.
- Roughly half agreed that people of color were not treated fairly by the criminal justice system or by police, generally.
- Nearly half (40%) had a relative or close friend who had been arrested, prosecuted, or convicted of a serious crime.
- That same percentage (40%) had formed an opinion about the time lapse between the February 23, 2020 date of the event and the May 2020 arrests of the defendants.
- Nearly a third (30%) had been the victim of a burglary or home invasion.
- The same percentage (30%) had no guns in their household.
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 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 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:
No relation to defendants or Arbery.
Formed opinion on guilt? 262, 263, 543, 272, 273, 292, 294, 298
Any prejudice or bias resting on your mind either for or against accused? 272, 273, 292,
Anyone minds not perfectly impartial between state and the accused? 276
At that point, he handed over general voir dire to the State, in the form of Senior ADA Linda Dunikoski.
Senior ADA Linda Dunikoski
Senior ADA Dunikoski took just about 40 minutes to work through roughly 80 questions, identical to those asked in previous general voir dire sessions, after which she also 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.
Anyone know any of us [prosecutors]? No one.
Anyone not reside in Glynn county? No one.
Under the age of 18? No one.
Convicted of felony and not had rights restored? No one.
Anyone sat on grand jury that returned this indictment? No one.
Anyone a POST-certified LEO? No one.
Anyone 70 or older who does not wish to serve on this jury? 262, 294
Full-time student? No one.
Full-time caretaker of child 6 or under? No one.
Full-time caretake of elderly or handicapped person? No one.
Anyone have difficulty understanding English language? No one.
Anyone have difficulty hearing? No one.
Anyone have any non-work life events, scheduled surgery, that would be hardship to serving as juror on this trial? 282
Related to DA Keith Higgins? No one.
Anyone know former DA Jackie Johnson? No one.
Anyone have an opinion on last year election where Higgins defeated Johnson for DA? No one.
Anyone have opinion how or why Cobb County DA assigned to this case by GA AG? No one.
Anyone going to be unable to give state fair trial because we’re from Cobb County, not Glynn County? No one.
The Waycross judicial DA is George Barnhill? Anyone related or know him? No one.
Barnhill Jr., former ADA, now practicing in Brunswick, know him? No one.
Atlantic judicial circuit, DA Tom Durden, know or related to himk? No one.
Anyone know an prosecutor anywhwere? No one.
Anyone know defense Sheffield or Rubin here? No one.
Anyone know Laura Hough and Frank Hough? No one.
Anyone know Kevin Gough? No one.
Anyone personally know Travis McMichael? No one.
Anyone know Greg McMichael? No one.
Anyone know William “Roddy” Bryan? No one.
Anyone know Ms. Amy Eldrod. 293, 291
Anyone know Lee McMichael, Greg’s wife? No one.
Anyone know Lindsey McMichael, Greg’s daughter? No one.
Anyone personally know Ahmaud Arbery? 275
Know his mother, Wanda Cooper Jones? No one.
Markus Arbery Sr., father? 275, 262, 298
Anyone know Judge Walmsley? No one.
Anyone ever served on a jury to a verdict? 543
Were you the foreperson? 543, yes
Was your jury able to reach verdict? Yes.
Anyone ever sat on a grand jury? No one.
When you got summons, directed to court web site, had documents for this case, did you look at any of those documents? 543, 272, 293
Have you served in the military? 275
Anyone with prior law enforcement training or experience? No one.
Anyone have relative or close friend in law enforcement? 272, 543, 263, 273, 276, 278, 282, 292, 298
Anyone have prior experience in field of social work? No one.
Anyone have prior experience or education in counseling, psychology, psychiatry? No one.
Prior work experience in legal field? Lawyer, paralegal, etc.? 294
Anyone have prior experience in criminal justice system? Prison guard, probation, etc. 294
Related to or close friend who works in a DA office, anywhere? No one.
Anyone with medical training beyond CPR? 294
Anyone here related or close friend with criminal defense attorney? No one.
Anyone had notable bad experience with law enforcement? No one.
Anyone had notable good experience with law enforcement? No one.
Anyone had notable bad experience with prosecutor? No one.
Anyone had notable bad experience with criminal defense attorney? No one.
Anyone here been arrested, convicted or prosecuted of crime DUI or more serious? No one.
Close friend or relative arrested, convicted, prosecuted of crime DUI or more serious? 262, 273, 275, 278, 292, 293, 294, 298
Anyone here who has been falsely accused of crime, involved police or not? No one.
Family or close friend falsely accused of crime? No one.
Ever been the victim of a violent crime or crime against their person? 273, 292
Anyone had close friend or relative that has been victim of violent crime or crime against person? 262, 278,
Also 272, friend or family victim of crime.
Ever witnessed a crime in progress? 273, 278
Ever taken cell phone video of a crime in progress? No one.
Anyone here, relative, close friend, ever been the victim of a burglary or home invasion? 274, 275, 292, 293, 294, 298
Anyone here, relative, close friend had firearm stolen from house or car? 274, 292, 293,
Anyone ever had to call 911 to report a crime? 262, 274, 276, 292, 293
Anyone ever given a formal statement to law enforcement, beyond traffic? 274, 277, 281, 292, 293
Anyone ever had to be a sworn witness at trial? 278
Anyone ever taken it upon yourself to investigate a crime? No one.
Know anybody who has ever taken upon themselves to investigate a crime? 262
Anyone recognize each other? 272
When over at Selden Park for first day summoned, did you recognize anyone who if you were both on jury would that be a problem for you (e.g., family member, boss, etc.). 298, 273
Is there anyone here who does NOT own any kind of firearm and none in household? 543, 276, 262, 281, 291, 298
Anyone ever had to carry a gun as part of their job? No one.
Anyone ever gotten firearms training? No one.
Anyone lived in Glynn County for less than 5 years? 543, 281, 291, 294
Anyone currently reside in Scittila Shores neighborhood? No one. Previously? No one. Particularly familiar? 262, 273, 293, 294
Anyone currently reside in Royal Oaks neighborhood? No one. Previously? No one. Particularly familiar? 293, 272, 262
Anyone currently reside Fancy Bluff neighborhood? No one. Previously? No one. Particularly familiar: 3 or 4
Anyone have religious moral ethical conviction keep you from arriving at verdict? 263, 272, 298 –one jury asked if this is a death penalty case.
Judge Walmsley: No, it is not.
Anyone have personal conviction keep you from arriving at verdict?
Anyone does NOT belong to religious fraternal or social organization? 276, 291, 292,
You, relative, close friend ever arrested and felt treated unfairly by police or criminal justice system: 273, 298
You, friend, family arrested or convicted of kidnapping or false imprisonment? No one.
For shooting someone or at someone? No one.
For the crime of murder? 292
Anyone here won’t be able to follow law if disagree or think it should be something else? No one.
Anyone here who WANTS to serve on this jury? No one.
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.
Do any of you know Travis McMichael, formerly Coast Guard? No one.
Anyone know Greg McMichael? No one.
Anyone know Roddy Bryan? 293
Anyone developed a negative opinion about any of the defendants? 262, 263, 543, 272, 273, 274, 275, 276, 277, 278, 279, 282, 292, 294, 298 (15/20!)
Any negative feelings about criminal defense attorneys? No one.
Anyone ever voted for or supported political candidate who had platform to limit gun rights? No one.
Anyone oppose laws that allow carry, concealed or open, in public? 274, 294
Anyone participated in a social justice march, either before or after event in this case? 298
Anyone support in any way Black Lives Matter movement? Or Ahmaud justice movement, or hashtag, bumper sticker, yard sign, social media, re-tweets, etc. 272, 273, 275, 292, 298
Anyone feel ever denied opportunity because of ethnicity or race? 262, 298,
Ever been falsely accused or placed under suspicion because of ethnicity or race? 272, 298
Agree that the old Georgia state flag, from 1956 to 2002, is a racist symbol? 272
Agree that people of color are not treated fairly by criminal justice system? 262, 272, 273, 274, 275, 279, 277, 292, 298
Agree that police in this country do not treat black and white people equally? 262, 272, 273, 274, 275, 278, 279, 292, 294, 298
Who feels that a psychologist or psychiatrist could diagnose just about anybody with a mental illness? 277, 294,
Have an opinion about the lapse of time between the incident date, Feb. 23, 2020, and the arrest day several months later in May 2020? 262, 272, 275, 277, 279, 292, 294, 298
Anyone have any situation at work or home that will prevent providing full attention to trial if asked to serve on jury? 263, 546, 272, 279, 292, 298
Any mental or physical or visual or auditory or whatever issue that would prevent you from providing full attention to the trial if asked to serve? 263, 272, 273, 276, 278, 279, 294, 298
Anything about you coming to a verdict, no matter what it is, that you won’t be able to do because of what might happen to you in the community after this case is over, that you have a concern? 263, 272
NEW QUESTION: You filled these forms out a while ago, maybe several weeks. If you now thinking back, whether one of your social media names or handles, anything has changed, new accounts or new thoughts or feelings not currently reflected on the form, raise your hand? 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.
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.
Kyle Rittenhouse Trial Begins Monday, November 1
By the way folks, this is likely the close of my coverage of this Ahmaud Arbery case trial.
This coming Monday, November 1, the trial of Kyle Rittenhouse begins. I can only realistically cover one trial at a time at this intensity of effort, and the Kyle Rittenhouse trial is the more important for the Law of Self Defense community, so that’s the one I’ll be prioritizing.
So, effective Monday morning, I expect to be turning my full attention to the Rittenhouse trial, providing detailed daily real-time and end-of-day plain English legal analysis through the verdict and beyond.
You’ll be able to access my daily coverage of the Rittenhouse trial right here!
OK, folks, that’s all I have for you at the moment.
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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