Welcome back to our ongoing coverage of the Ahmaud Arbery case, with day six of jury selection, or voir dire, for the trial of Travis McMichael, Greg McMichael, and William “Roddy” Bryan on murder and other charges over the death of Ahmaud Arbery on February 23, 2020.
Today we expect the jury selection process, or voir dire, to continue. Today I anticipate the court will begin with a new group, the sixth group to date, of 20 prospective jurors subject to general voir dire this morning, followed by individual voir dire of members of that group in the afternoon, as has been the pattern throughout last week.
The media is reporting that so far there have been about 32 prospective jurors who have made it through general and individual voir dire, and who are said to have been “qualified” for yet a third level of voir dire. Judge Walmsley reportedly wants 64 prospective jurors “qualified” in this manner, to allow for that third level of voir dire that will ultimately distill that group to the 12 jurors and 4 alternates needed for trial. So, the current group of 32 qualified jurors puts the court halfway to its goal of 64, achieved after five full days of general and individual jury selection.
At the current rate, it could take another five days to choose the remaining 32 “qualified” jurors, and then the 64 “qualified” jurors must be put through yet a third level of voir dire to winnow that group down to 16. This suggests that a jury may not be seated until near the end of next week, the first full week of November (and by which time the Kyle Rittenhouse trial would have been underway for a full week, having started on November 1).
A key reason for the slow pace of voir dire has apparently been that so many prospective jurors have already arrived at an opinion as to the guilt of the defendants, having previously seen the infamous video of the final confrontation between Ahmaud Arbery and Travis McMichael, as well as having been subject to some 20 months of media coverage and propaganda around the case.
While noting that so far the court is only “qualifying” prospective jurors and not actually seating jurors, it would appear that the threshold of impartiality that must be evidenced to be “qualified” is rather disturbingly low.
This news report, for example, indicates that one prospective juror deemed “qualified” in yesterday’s individual voir dire, when asked by defense attorney Jason Sheffield, who represents Travis McMichael, if he believed as he sat in court during individual voir dire if he believed that the defendants had committed a crime, the man answered, yes, murder.
Another prospective jury was deemed “qualified” despite telling the court that his perception of Ahmaud Arbery’s death was that it was three persons armed with guns who attacked one who was unarmed.
A woman questioned yesterday reported that she supported the Black Lives Matters movement, and currently believed that the defendants are guilty of murder, but then noted “but I think there are all kinds of circumstances that could probably justify murder.”
It’s also reported that defense attorney Laura Hogue (representing Greg McMichael) has asked Judge Walmsley to approve three additional jury question for voir dire:
- Whether the amount of time between 2/23/2020 (when Arbery was killed) and when the defendants were charged has played any role in how you feel about the case or defendants.
- If you were in the accused place, would you want someone with your views on the jury?
- Do you think a not guilty verdict will affect your standing in the community or for your loved ones?
Judge Walmsley is providing the state prosecutors with the opportunity to formulate any arguments they may have against this motion before he rules on these three additional questions.
We were also able to obtain about 40 minutes of video, with audio, of the debate among the parties during individual voir dire yesterday, to perhaps help everyone get a flavor for how that is going. This video was taken in the courtroom after individual questioning of jurors was completed, and without any jurors present, so there is no violation of Judge Walmsley’s prohibition on broadcasting individual juror questioning.
Here’s that video of debate over “qualified jurors” during yesterday afternoon’s individual voir dire:
You can find our analysis of yesterday’s voir dire here:
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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
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