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Ahmaud Arbery’s father compares mostly white jury to justice in Jim Crow South

The jury in the trial for the men accused of killing Ahmaud Arbery is made up of 11 white members and just one Black member.

BRUNSWICK, Ga. — The trial in the death of Ahmaud Arbery finally starts Friday morning in Brunswick after almost three weeks of jury selection.

A jury was chosen Wednesday, but not without controversy. Eleven of the 12 jurors are white, and just one member is Black. That's 92 percent of the jury, far more than the population of Glynn County, which is 62 percent white and 26 percent Black. 

"It's not normal for three white men to run down a Black kid and run him down in the street," Marcus Arbery Sr., Ahmaud Arbery's father, said. "You’re talking about you made a citizen’s arrest? C'mon. What law did he break? What did he take? We’re not going for this. We’re not going for no 1955 [jury].  These three men are finna get convicted. I’m telling you we’re not going for it," he said.

Late Thursday, the judge struck one juror for medical reasons and replaced her one of the four alternates, also a white woman. Three alternates are left.

Thursday, the court handled mostly housekeeping matters, including several motions. Judge Timothy Walmsley granted the state's motion preventing the defense from using toxicology reports that showed small amounts of THC in Arbery's bloodstream. 

The defense argued its expert, a psychiatrist, confirmed Arbery was diagnosed with a schizoaffective disorder and "an individual with a schizoaffective disorder who uses THC has a higher incidence of aggression." The state argued the defense's psychiatrist shouldn't be able to speak about Arbery's THC use. 

Walmsley also granted the state's motion excluding the use of force expert that Travis McMichael's attorneys hoped to have testify. The defense argued the expert could offer insight into if Travis McMichael's actions in the video of the fatal shooting align with use of force tactics. 

The state said while Travis McMichael is a former Coast Guard Officer, he wasn't an acting law enforcement officer when the shooting happened. The state also said it is contradictory to the defense's main argument of self-defense and citizen's arrest. 

The judge will also allow some body camera footage that the defense said was too graphic. Prosecutors argued the video is necessary because it shows what happens when someone shoots another person. Prosecutors also said they don't want to hide anything from the jurors.

"The state makes a good point," Walmsley said in his ruling. "That video is a very real depiction of a scene that may be shocking to some. This court does not expect and I would hope everybody would respect the fact that there would be reactions in the courtroom to any evidence presented or outbursts not associated with any evidence as it is presented," he said.

The judge went on to say if people in the gallery think they may have an outburst in reaction to evidence that will disrupt the court, to leave while it's presented. 

There are still a few motions the judge is deciding on, like whether the fact that Arbery was on probation at the time of the shooting will be admitted as evidence. The judge had previously ruled Arbery's criminal history couldn't be used, but it was broadly included in a separate order. The prosecution said probation wasn't specifically mentioned by name in that order, so that's why they made the motion Thursday.

The state said the fact that Arbery was on probation has nothing to do with what he was doing the day he was killed. The defense said it has substantial evidence to show Arbery was running to avoid arrest that day. 

The judge also didn't rule on whether a picture of Travis McMichael's truck that has a vanity plate of the old Georgia state flag will be allowed in court. The defense said filed a motion saying it doesn't want it allowed, and if the state needs to show the image, it needs to blur out the license plate. The defense said it could be interpreted as racial or prejudicial. 

The defense said it's an "improper comment ... on Travis McMichael's character," and thinks that's what the state will use the image for. The state argued the image is relevant to the case because Arbery looks at the front of the truck at one point and turns around, providing circumstantial evidence that he saw the license plate, the state said.

Lead prosecutor Linda Dunikowski said the state isn't arguing Arbery turned around because he saw the flag. She said the vanity plate could be used to support a possible motive. Dunikowski continued, saying that Travis McMichael made a choice to drive around with that type of license plate. She said it's no different than putting on a T-shirt with a Confederate flag on it.

As far as the courtroom setup, it has two aisles of benches in the gallery. The judge will sit on the right side of the gallery benches. Family members of the defendants and the Arberys will sit on the left benches of the gallery.

Court starts at 9 a.m. Friday. The judge will address any issues before the court, the jury will return and opening statements will start. Travis McMichael's attorney, Jason Sheffield, said he expects opening statements to take one hour per defendant.

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