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Courtroom Report: What happened during Day 6 of jury selection in death of Ahmaud Arbery trial

Here are the notes taken by the pool reporter assigned by Judge Timothy Walmsley.

BRUNSWICK, Ga. — Editor's Note: The following are notes taken by the pool reporter assigned to the trial against Gregory McMichael, Travis McMichael and William Bryan. First Coast News has removed some details to help protect the identities of potential jurors.

Addressing Public Demonstrations

  • Judge Timothy Walmsley denied Gough’s motion to create a demonstration-free zone outside the courthouse.
  • “The court does not find the defense has met its burden,” Walmsley said, noting the demonstrators had free speech rights. He also said that in recent days there have been very few demonstrators outside the Glynn County courthouse and the sheriff has reported no issues with them.
  • Yet the judge expressed concern that outside parties are trying to influence the public – and perhaps members of the jury pool. He specifically mentioned the tweet sent out last night by Lee Merritt, who criticized Walmsley for qualifying a juror. The tweet referenced the woman juror’s occupation.
  • Over the initial days of jury selection, Walmsley has taken steps to shield the anonymity of the jurors. He has instructed the news media to refrain from reporting personal details about potential jurors that would make them easily identifable. He has also told the defense lawyers and prosecution to refrain from speaking about evidence that has been ruled inadmissible or could be ruled inadmissible.
  • “It troubles me significantly that any individual separate from the lawyers and the media would be taking it upon themselves a narrative that does not comply with this court’s clear wishes,” Walmsley said. “This is a concern of mine.”
  • As for the tweet sent out last night by Merritt, Walmsley said, “I need to think that through.”
  • The judge said he did not care if the tweet was critical of him. His concern, he said, is an attempt by third parties to get out information that could reach the jury panel.

Juror 469

  • White woman.
  • Wrote in her questionnaire – “I think that Mr. Arbery was hunted down and killed unnecessarily.”  She wrote it wasn’t because he stole anything. His hands were empty when he was killed.
  • “When a man’s jogging and there’s nothing in his hands,” how can that be stealing? she asked.
  • If chosen can you base your verdict on the evidence in court and the law the judge gives you? “I can’t honestly say that I can. You can’t make your mind forget what it’s known. … I can try, yes. But I can’t guarantee.”
  • She said she was referring to video and everything she’s seen and heard about the case.
  • Talked about case with family and friends. “At this point, my opinion is I just don’t see it any other way. And he was killed.”
  • Formed opinion as to guilt or innocence of the defendants? “Not sitting right here this moment.”
  • You don’t know all the facts? “Correct.”
  • If chosen as juror, see the evidence, listen to the law, are you able to form your own opinion on the case? “I have my own mind, yes. I can certainly make my own mind up.”
  • Said she was listening to some of the evidence the defense wanted excluded although she’s vague on the details. “I know they were talking about the health records, things of that nature.”
  • Knows Amy Elrod, Bryan’s wife. Can’t remember ever meeting Bryan.
  • On her negative feelings about the defendants: “What I’ve seen gives me an uneasy feeling and harbors inside of me the depth of what happened. It bothers me.”
  • Can you be fair? “I can only try.”
  • On space of time between killing and arrests? “I just wondered why it took so long. … I seemed like a long period of time.”
  • Sometimes very hard to stand up from a chair. Can be in extreme pain.
  • About cellphone video: “I did see the firing of the gun. I saw the other gentleman jump out. He had a gun on him.” She sighed when saying she saw cops arrive and heard Ahmaud gasp for air. “Nobody was doing anything. It bothered me,” she said.
  • When she felt when she saw someone step over Arbery’s body: “Awful as a human and a mother and a citizen. Awful.”
  • Has friend who lived near Ahmaud Arbery and his mother. “I didn’t know him at all,” she said.
  • She also said she saw him lifting weights across the street when she came to pick up her kids from friend’s house.
  • “I don’t try to be biased. I don’t try to be any of those things.” But in your heart and mind you can’t always get rid of some of those thoughts, she said.
  • She said she understood Arbery was a runner but can’t say any more because she didn’t know him.

Juror 475

  • White man.
  • Opinion about guilt? “I just think that it was a bad set of circumstances. Yeah, they shot him in the street. Cut him off.” Got that opinion from “watching the video, talking with friends.”
  • Opinion about guilt? “I don’t think I’d know unless it was explained to judge them.” Would hold the state to prove its case beyond a reasonable doubt and would follow the judge’s instructions. Also said he would consider defense’s citizen’s arrest and self-defense claims. And would base his verdict solely on what’s presented in court? “Yes.”
  • Have negative feelings toward three defendants? “Yes, from what I saw on the video.” But said he could set those negative feelings aside and give them a fair trial. “I’d like to think I could,” he said.
  • Has been to Satilla Shores.
  • Believes people of color aren’t treated equally in criminal justice system. “Just seems a little lopsided at times. … People being pulled maybe, being picked on a little more.” Said he can set those feelings aside.
  • Had bad experience with law enforcement. “You don’t want to go to jail overnight, you know.” “I was guilty of what I did.” Felt he was treated fairly.
  • Has talked to people who know Bryan and have known him all their lives. Expressed their opinions. “I’ve heard every opinion from totally innocent to totally guilty.”
  • Did some active research on the case on Facebook and news articles. “I haven’t dwelled on it or anything. … Whenever I see Brunswick or Glynn County on the news I pay attention to it.”
  • “I don’t know if I can set the video aside. It’s pretty burned into my memory.”
  • Any reason you can’t be fair and impartial in this case? “No.”
  • What do you know? Gathered info from Facebook, videos, news story and “water cooler talk.”
  • Watched video “maybe five, six times.” “It seemed pretty rough, pretty gruesome when slowed down.”
  • “There was a chase, there was a scuffle in the road and he was shot.”
  • When first saw video, “I was upset. … It bothered me.” Became national news.
  • Worked on jury questionnaire with his wife – who wrote the answers for him. Said they reflect his opinion. “That’s pretty much what I said.”
  • Knows some people who believe “they shouldn’t have been arrested at all” and others who think “they should be shipped off to Siberia.”
  • “Whether it was justified or not is the other opinion.”
  • On people of color not being treated fairly. “The whole Black Lives Matter movement has pushed that along.”
  • Is that a good thing? “I think it’s made our town look negative, for sure. It hasn’t been positive at all.”
  • “I think race does play a role in this case. It was a Black guy in a white neighborhood. He got chased down by trucks and was shot in the street.” That “reflects negatively” on the defendants, he said.
  • Hogue now asking juror if he sticks by what he told the prosecution that he can be fair and impartial. “It’s still going to be hard to wipe my mind,” he said.
  • May have looked up stand your ground law.  Form opinions about that? “I felt like they broke their law. They weren’t in their yard. They were in the street and chased him down with guns.”
  • Set feelings aside? “I’ll try my best but it may be hard.”
  • Where do you go to church? I don’t go to church. Grew up Baptist in Jesup but fell out of faith. If something happened to you, “I’d want a good Baptist preacher.”
  • Can you be fair to Roddie Bryan? “I think I could be fair.”

Juror 479

  • Black woman, older than 70
  • The only member of today’s panel who said she wanted to serve on the jury
  • Do you have an opinion on this case? “We want to see justice done. I want everything to be fair, that’s my opinion. Everybody’s due their day in court”
  • Says if what they did was wrong, they should be punished:
  • “It won’t bring him back, but at least it would let people know you can’t just do people any kind of way,” said juror No. 479
  • Said she would listen and consider a self-defense/citizen’s arrest argument at trial and consider all testimony.
  • Would you be able to render a verdict based solely on the evidence you hear within these four walls? “Yes sir.”
  • Believes people of color are treated unfairly in the criminal justice system, offered an example.
  • “I’ll listen. But you listen with your heart and your mind,” she said when asked about serving as a juror
  • Why do you want to be on this jury? “I believe I can bring peace out of the storm,” she said. “We as a community are supposed to love one another and there’s got to be some peace.”
  • Said she has no negative opinions of any of the defendants. “It’s not up to me to hate anybody.”
  • Asked about the amount of time that lapsed between shooting/arrest. “Nothing was done.” she said. “To me, it’s like it was swept under the rug.”
  • Believes the old Georgia flag is a racist symbol.
  • “Any time discrepancies come, I see those flags,” she said. “And they’re not on clean vehicles… It’s like it belongs to one race.”
  • Walmsley asked if she already had an opinion.
  • “Your honor, I believe everybody saw the tape. So we know somebody shot him. I don’t know what brought it all about … You need to hear all the facts.”
  • Frank Hogue questions her about previous answer referencing “peace out of the storm”
  • “We have some good people in this community, Black and white,” she said. “And we show love to one another. I just believe I would be a good asset to the system.”
  • We don’t know what’s going to happen, she said. “Someone’s going to suffer on either side.”
  • Frank Hogue: Tell me about how your desire to serve on this jury would achieve loving one another: 
  • “To honor God is love. I have love pouring out of my heart. I am trying to do what is right,” she said. “I am going to be one of the ones that promotes peace.”
  • In questionnaire, she wrote: “A person’s life was taken and justice needs to prevail.”
  • Hogue asked what she meant. “Whatever’s right in God’s eyes,” she said. “I don’t know these men and I don’t know the young man…”
  • Said she has children, and if something like that happened to her child, she would want answers.
  • “If they’re guilty, they’re guilty,” she said.
  • Said she has rights, including the right to walk down the sidewalk. 
  • “I have the right to go to the grocery store,” she said. “Somebody may not want me to go to the grocery store. Do I have rights?
  • As the juror was being questioned, Arbery’s mother, Wanda Cooper Jones, left the courtroom sobbing.
  • The woman apparently had an “I run with Maud” sticker or profile filter on her Facebook page that was later removed.
    "You can’t keep the same thing on your page.”
  • Kevin Gough said she deleted the emoji, but the juror denied deleting it.
  • She rejoins panel.

Multiple Jurors Dimissed

  • Gough tried to dismiss some jurors early, saying they likely wouldn’t get through today’s panel.
  • Judge Walmsley said he wanted to stick with the schedule.
  • Juror 481
    • White man, gray hair
    • Said he has a negative opinion of the three defendants.
    • “I believe they overstepped the bounds of the law.”
    • Have you formed an opinion as to their guilt or innocence? “Yes. Guilt,” he said, clarifying he feels that way about all three.
    • Juror No. 481 said his opinion is fixed/unchangeable
    • Quickly struck for cause.
  • Juror 484 a federal law enforcement officer w/ arrest powers is struck for cause.
  • Juror No. 485 Struck for cause
    • “The opinion is guilty. Based on the snippet of the video and what I heard, people are referring to it as a modern-day lynching,” he said.  “But I see it more as hunter v. prey.”
    • Why would it take three men to challenge one young man? he asked
      Said they grabbed guns, pickups and hunted him down “like an animal”
      Said the defendants weren’t even sure he had done anything wrong.
    • “The one thing they were sure of was that he was black. And he was running.”
      Said his opinion is fixed.
  • Juror No. 488 Struck for cause
    • Her opinion is they’re guilty.
    • “I feel like they should have left what they did up to law enforcement,” she said. “A month ago I had guys running through my neighborhood. I didn’t run out of my house and chase them down.”
    • Said they were running through her backyard from the cops in the middle of the night and that she called 911 “several times.”
    • Basing her opinion off news coverage, conversations w/ others.
    • “Was I there? No.”
    • Camarillo: Do you think you could look at the facts as presented solely within these four walls?
    • “I don’t think so,” she said. “I still feel like they should have just not chased them down. The video doesn’t lie to me. They could have just called the police, stayed where they were.”
    • Said she doesn’t think she could remain impartial.
  • Juror No. 489 Struck for cause
    • Says she’s going on a trip, has procedure next week
    • If the trial didn’t start until after your vacation would you be able to put off
    • Also thinks defendants are guilty based on the videos she’s seen about four times.
    • “I know I’m not going to change opinion.”
  • Juror No. 510 struck for cause
  • Juror No. 500 is struck for cause.

Juror 495

  • No. 495 Struck for cause after defense raises concerns about her opinions of the case
  • White woman
  • Questioned by Larissa Olliviere. She has a family wedding to attend this weekend out of state and won’t be back until Monday.
  • Says she already has an opinion about the case.
  • “I could not imagine anything that would convince me that Arbery wasn’t chased and murdered,” the woman said.
  • Believes the defendants are guilty
  • Has that opinion “of at least two of them. One is possibly not.”
  • Says she’s open to considering the self-defense/citizen’s arrest, but that she doesn’t “understand the parameters of citizen’s arrest.”
  • Has mixed-race members of her family. Said they feel like they’ve been discriminated against.
  • Knows DA Keith Higgins, signed the petition to get him on the ballot last year.
    Says she had “strong opinions” about Jackie Johnson, including that she was not upholding her oath of office and “choosing how to interpret the law.”
  • But those opinions wouldn’t affect her ability to listen to the facts of the case, the woman said. She’s served on two juries previously and believes she could be fair or impartial if selected to serve at the trial.
  • Had her home broken into years ago, recognized another juror last week at Selden Park.
  • Asked about the time between Arbery’s shooting and the McMichaels’ arrest.
  • “It was reported that there had been a shooting in Satilla Shores and I expected something to happen fast,” she said. “And nothing happened.”
  • It wasn’t until later that she pieced the facts together, formed her opinion of Johnson.
  • Watched a hearing about this case.
  • Said she remembers something about a “Cloth on the car from Arbery being shoved into a ditch by the car.”
  • Said she would try to consider the facts of the case, but that she “can’t imagine” what could change her mind.
  • Listening to the defenses, could that possibly change your mind? Olliviere asks.
  • “I’m open, but I can’t imagine what that would be.”
  • Juror asked to step out. Attorneys call a discussion:
  • Laure Hogue said she wants her dismissed for “a slew of reasons”
  • This is the situation we had last week, she said, when the juror had seen the preliminary hearing and remembered a number of specific details that made an impression on her.
  • “If she comes into the trial with that on her mind, she is not appropriate for the panel,” Walmsley said. “Therefore I am striking 495.

Juror 496

  • White woman
  • Planning a move
  • Juror says she would be willing to give the case her undivided attention, but has concerns she could miss signing the contract.
  • Says she has not formed an opinion about the guilt or innocence of the defendants.
  • “I think it’s a little more complex with this,” she says, noting the number of different charges.
  • Said she doesn’t know what the facts of the case may be compared to what she’s heard. Knows quite a bit about the case, though
  • (Juror 496: Ahmaud Arbery was jogging in Satilla Shores. He went into a home that was under construction. Owner of home was not there and asked the father McMichael to watch the home…When he saw Arbery, he asked his son to get his gun and they went out and asked him to stop.)
  • “They had a struggle, went out of video for a minute and then Arbery comes back and he was shot,” she said.
  • Saw the video shortly after it was released.
  • “It was an obscene video. I clearly remember seeing Arbery fall,” said juror 496
  • Has child, but could get her mother or a friend to watch her kid.
  • Background in psychology, but never had the chance to get an advanced degree.
  • Once had a gun stolen from her pickup parked outside her home.
  • Raised her hand earlier when asked about the time between the shooting and the arrests.
  • Pressed by prosecution about her opinion of Johnson:
  • “As a DA, that’s part of her job is deciding which cases should or should not be pursued,” she said. “She decided for whatever reason that she didn’t have enough evidence to pursue.”
  • Asked why she thought the video was “obscene.”
  • “Someone died. There’s no reason someone should ever have to see somebody else die.”
  • Said she doesn’t want to see the video again, “but if I had to watch it I would.”
  • Questioned by Kevin Gough: She says she doesn’t really want to serve on this jury.
  • Gough says nobody really does.
  • Juror said she would try to be as objective as possible if selected to serve on the jury. 
  • Asked to rejoin panel.

Juror 498

  • Juror No. 498 Struck for cause
  • Black man
  • Questioned by Larissa Olliviere
  • Says he formed an opinion: “I believe they are guilty of murder, basically,” he said. “I didn’t know anything about this case until I saw the video.”
  • Said it seems, “he was not doing anything wrong but running.”
  • Acknowledges that he doesn’t have all the facts of the case, that there can be errors in reporting.
  • Prosecution asked if he would be able to consider the facts of the case, remain objective at trial.
  • “To be perfectly honest, no, because I cannot unsee the video,” No. 498 said.
  • Asked if he would be open to considering additional evidence:
  • If I was selected, I guess I would have to consider the evidence, but I don’t know it would change my mind.
  • “My first sight of the video was watching the boy get shot down.”
  • Said he would not consider self-defense.
  • “Self-defense to what? From what I saw he was running away from them. They was chasing after him so how is that self-defense?
  • Struck for cause.

Court Adjourns 

  • After a late night Monday, Walmsley says he wants to wrap it up.
  • “Instead of pushing through the balance of the panel, I’m inclined to stop were we are,” Walmsley said.
  • Motions on today’s panel underway.
  • Four more potential jurors were qualified today, bringing the number qualified so far to 36
  • Qualified are: 466, 475, 479, 496
  • Holdovers: 501, 502, 508 (They weren’t struck or individually questioned today)
  • Judge says the court will put them on a panel toward the end of the selection process and instructs them not to discuss the case or seek out any additional info.
  •  “Hopefully we get some traction at 8:30,” Walmsley tells the attorneys.