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Ahmaud Arbery murder trial hits snag during jury selection amid viral video

The search for impartial jurors is posing a challenge in the murder trial of three white men accused of killing Ahmaud Arbery — because of viral video of the black jogger’s death.

Potential jurors in the highly anticipated Georgia trial have admitted to being swayed by the video allegedly showing Arbery being shot at close range last year.

“I saw the news footage and I saw the video footage of the crime, and I’ve already formed a guilty opinion of the crime,” one potential juror told the court last week.

Another said, “Some things you can’t just unsee.”

Chatham County Superior Court Judge Timothy Walmsley wants an initial pool of 64 potential jurors from which a final panel of 12 jurors and four alternates will be selected. But so far, only 23 have been picked for the pool after one week of proceedings.

Glynn County Courthouse, where jury selection in the murder trial of Ahmaud Arbery begins, in Brunswick, Georgia.
REUTERS/Octavio Jones
Travis McMichael (left) exits the Glynn County Courthouse after the first day of jury selection for the trial of the shooting death of Ahmaud Arbery on October 18, 2021.
Travis McMichael (left) exits the Glynn County Courthouse after the first day of jury selection for the trial of the shooting death of Ahmaud Arbery on October 18, 2021.
Sean Rayford/Getty Images
Ahmaud Arbery was killed On February 23, 2020.
Ahmaud Arbery was killed On February 23, 2020.
Marcus Arbery/Handout via REUTERS

The judge said jury selection could take well into this week or the week after. The court was not in session Friday and will resume Monday.

Arbery, 25, was jogging through the Satilla Shores neighborhood in Brunswick on Feb. 23, 2020, when he was chased down by three white men — Greg McMichael, 65, his 35-year-old son, Travis McMichael, and local resident William “Roddie” Bryan, 52.

The three men cornered Arbery, claiming they believed he was a burglar, with Travis McMichael confronting the jogger and shooting him dead with a shotgun.

Former police officer Gregory McMichael was arrested by the Georgia Bureau of Investigation and charged with murder.
Former police officer Gregory McMichael was arrested by the Georgia Bureau of Investigation and charged with murder.
Glynn County Sheriff?s Office/Handout via REUTERS.
William "Roddie" Bryan Jr. was charged with felony murder and attempted false imprisonment.
William “Roddie” Bryan Jr. was charged with felony murder and attempted false imprisonment.
Glynn County Sheriff’s Office via AP
Travis McMichael poses for a booking photo after he and his father were arrested by the Georgia Bureau of Investigation and charged with the murder of Ahmaud Arbery.
Travis McMichael was arrested by the Georgia Bureau of Investigation and charged with the murder of Ahmaud Arbery.
Glynn County Sheriff’s Office/Handout via REUTERS.

Bryan shot footage of the deadly incident — which then went viral.

The shocking video presents a similar challenge to the one defense lawyers faced at the murder trial of ex-cop Derek Chauvin, who was convicted in the caught-on-video police custody death of George Floyd in Minneapolis.

In Arbery’s case, all three defendants face life in prison if convicted.

Ahmaud Arbery stumbling and falling to the ground after being shot as Travis McMichael stands by holding a shotgun in a neighborhood.
Video posted on Twitter shows Ahmaud Arbery stumbling and falling to the ground after being shot as Travis McMichael stands by holding a shotgun in a neighborhood.
Twitter via AP

Defense attorneys claim the men acted in self-defense, noting that Arbery struggled over the shotgun when confronted by Travis McMichael.

They will also rely on Georgia’s citizen’s arrest statute, which was in place at the time but has since been retracted due to the outcry over Arbery’s death.

Two prosecutors recused themselves from the case because Greg McMichael is a former cop and investigator for two local district attorneys.

Attorney Ben Crump and Marcus Arbery arrive at the Glynn County Courthouse.
Attorney Ben Crump and Marcus Arbery arrive at the Glynn County Courthouse.
REUTERS/Octavio Jones

The case was ultimately turned over to Thomas Durden, the district attorney for the Atlantic Judicial District, but is being tried in Glynn County.

Lawyers on both sides of the case have abandoned the possibility that only potential jurors who have not seen the video will be picked — and are only seeking those who have not formed an opinion or are willing to hear all the facts before deciding.

Walmsley has made it clear he’s not happy with the slow pace, telling lawyers last week, “I am not comfortable with this.”

Beverly Green of Chicago holds a sign outside the Glynn County Courthouse.
Beverly Green of Chicago holds a sign outside the Glynn County Courthouse.
REUTERS/Octavio Jones

However, the high-profile nature of the case — and the viral video — will likely remain a challenge, Vanderbilt University law professor Chris Slobogin told Reuters.

“I mean, everyone’s seen this video,” he said. “I believe the judge will eventually find 12 jurors, but the work is to figure out if a person is being forthright when they say they can set aside what they saw.”

With Post wires

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