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'I don't know what the hold up is': Ahmaud Arbery's family growing frustrated with slow pace of jury selection

The second week of jury selection started Monday. The judge said it could last two more weeks.

BRUNSWICK, Ga. — Monday, the second week of jury selection in the trial for three Georgia men charged with murder started. Ahmaud Arbery, a 25-year-old Black man, was shot and killed in a Brunswick neighborhood in Feb. 2020.

Arbery's family said Monday their patience is wearing thin. As of Monday morning, jury selection wasn't even halfway to the magic number of 64 qualified jurors needed to begin the final selection of 12 jurors and four alternates.

“I don’t know what the hold up is," Arbery's aunt, Diane Jackson, said. "I don’t think there’s too much they could do about the jury because everybody in the world has seen this, but it seems like it’s trying to drag on for something but they don’t know what it’s doing to the family, my brother, his mama, sisters and brothers, aunts and uncles."

"It seems like we’re just going to keep going on and on and it shouldn’t be like this," she added.

The judge told the group of 19 potential jurors who began questioning Monday around 9 a.m. that based on last week, he expects questioning to last all day. Groups of 20 have been brought to the courthouse each morning. The other potential juror, 412, will be rescheduled, according to notes from the pool reporters.

Judge Timothy Walmsley asked Monday's jurors for patience with the process. Arbery's aunt said going into the fifth day of jury selection, the family is growing frustrated, and said they're going through hell every day.

“This ain’t no joking matter here. If you watch that video, you’ll know what we’re talking about. This is something serious that shouldn’t have never happened here and I wish it would’ve never happened, and then we wouldn’t be going through all of this hell because this thing here, it’ll kill you just watching the video," Jackson said. 

Jackson said she still thinks they can get a fair and impartial jury in Glynn County.

Nine potential jurors qualified Monday, adding to the 23 already qualified, halfway to the magic number of 64. The state said they think they'll get there by Tuesday or Wednesday of next week.

One person who qualified Monday said he took part in the "I Run with Maud" campaign last year. He also said Arbery's family deserves closure, but said he could remain objective.

A couple potential jurors who qualified said they support Black Lives Matter, and have participated in social justice demonstrations. One said she wants to be a part of this jury. 

Monday, like previous days of jury selection, several potential jurors said they knew Arbery, his family, and/or some of the defendants. Of those who qualified, one knows William Roddie Bryan and his fiancé. One knows Gregory McMichael's wife. One knows Arbery Senior and said Bryan sold him lawn equipment. 

Arbery's family said they aren't surprised several potential jurors each day know key players in the case because Glynn County is so small. 

Some of those dismissed Monday included a second cousin of Arbery's father, Marcus Arbery Sr., and another was a close friend of Arbery's. Both said they didn't think they could remain objective. 

Some of the potential jurors Monday said they have developed negative feelings about the defendants. One who qualified said he could put aside his negative feelings about Gregory McMichael and that it wouldn't impact his ability to make a decision. A few also said they've formed an opinion on guilt or innocence about the defendants already.

Bryan's attorney, Kevin Gough, complained to the judge that when one potential juror walked in Monday, Arbery Sr. nodded at him. That potential juror qualified. Gough said it was a subtle gesture that encourages bias. 

Gough raised a similar concern last week after a potential juror, he said, gave Arbery Sr. a thumbs up when he was leaving the courtroom. On another day last week, he objected to a button he said Arbery Sr. wore in court with logos of social justice groups.

Arbery Sr. said he's shrugging off the pushback. Arbery family supporters said Gough needs to stop with the pushback.

"I don't pay attention to it," Arbery Sr. said.

“I’m tired of it," Barbara R. Arnwine Esq., of the Transformative Justice Coalition, said. "They keep attacking him very hostily and accusing him of nodding or anything, in fact, they even accused him of wearing a button. He had no button on," she said. 

"It's just this hostility towards Mr. Arbery really needs to stop. I know he’s trying to represent his client, but that doesn’t mean you get hostile towards a family member," Arnwine said.

After lunch, Gregory McMichael's attorney, Laura Hogue, asked the court to consider additional questions for potential jurors designed to "do everything we can to deal with a system" where there has been a lot of pretrial publicity and movements. The judge told the defense one of their questions in the filed motion could be considered racially motivated. That question was if the juror was in the defendants' place, would they want someone with the juror's views and life experience on the jury.

The prosecution said it was not aware the motion was coming. The judge said it was not appropriate for him to rule on the motion without the state hearing it before it's being spoken in court. 

Gough responded, "I sense the frustration." 

The judge replied, "It's not frustration. It is creating a fair environment."

Judge Walmsley asked the parties to discuss things like this motion before bringing this into the courtroom. He will hear this motion Tuesday morning at 8:15.