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Final jury selection expected Wednesday, opening statements Thursday in trial in death of Ahmaud Arbery

Tuesday, after 11 days of jury selection, the court met its magic number of qualified potential jurors to start final jury selection.

BRUNSWICK, Ga. — Tuesday, on the eleventh day of jury selection in the trial in the death of Ahmaud Arbery, the court met its magic number of qualified potential jurors needed to start final jury selection.

Five more people qualified Tuesday, bringing the total to 65 potential jurors, one more than the goal of 64.

"That puts us in an interesting spot," Judge Timothy Walmsley said. "We're plus one."

Wednesday, final jury selection will start, narrowing down that 65 to 12 jurors and four alternates. The judge said Tuesday he expects jury selection to wrap Wednesday, hear motions Wednesday into Thursday possibly and opening statements are expected to start Thursday. 

Ahmaud Arbery's father, Marcus Arbery Sr., said it's a day he and his family have been waiting for. 

"We’re still struggling because we lost our loved one, but we’re finally getting this day in court," Arbery Sr. said.

William Roddie Bryan's attorney, Kevin Gough, said Tuesday he may file a motion stating Bryan may not be facing a jury of his peers. 

"We're still looking at, for lack of a better phrase, the Bubba under-representation issue if we're going to pursue that," Gough said.

Specifically, Gough said the jury pool is lacking in Southern born, white males over 40-years-old without college degrees, a demographic he called, "Bubbas." According to First Coast News' calculations, 29 percent of the potential pool of jurors who've qualified are white men. Fifty-one percent are white women, nine percent are Black men and 11 percent are Black women.

Gough said he's also thinking about filing a motion to sever on behalf of Bryan. Essentially, he's asking for Bryan's own trial, separate from Gregory and Travis McMichael.

Also Tuesday, defense attorneys said they had some concerns about what happened outside the courthouse. They told the judge they believe the group that has been outside the courthouse almost every day of jury selection could be influencing potential jurors.

Specifically, defense attorney Bob Rubin noted demonstrators approached one potential juror to hug or shake hands during lunch Tuesday. Rubin said he has a video of it. That potential juror was questioned about the incident and said it was his aunt and cousin who approached him. He was struck due to childcare issues, ultimately.

"I’m not necessarily asking the court to do something right now, but that the jury, the potential jury, is facing pressures from parts of the community that want a certain verdict in this case, and I think it would be for the court at the appropriate time to remove that group to another area away from where jurors are," Rubin said.

"They have a First Amendment right. I understand that, but the court does have in my opinion the authority to protect the jurors and protect the defendants' rights to a fair trial," Rubin added.

The judge said he'll evaluate incidents like this one on a case-by-case basis. He also said he's in touch with the sheriff about what's happening outside the courthouse to make sure there's a fair trial.

Gough made a motion the first week of jury selection asking that demonstrators be moved from the front of the courthouse. The judge denied that request.

Final jury selection starts at nine a.m. Wednesday.

    

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