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.
Jury selection continues
Judge Walmsley swore in the fourth panel of 20 potential jurors. He told the group he knows most people aren’t excited to be called for jury duty.
“I would believe in this particular case that is maybe doubly so,” the judge said before the questioning began just after 9 a.m. Thursday.
- Judge Walmsley and prosecutor Linda Dunikoski have asked their questions to the jury panel. A short pause before defense starts.
- Note three jurors this time around said they want to serve on the jury: Nos. 219, 246, 261
A woman, and registered nurse, said she followed the case in newspapers, news websites and radio. She said she recognized Roddie Bryan because they had children on the same choir several years ago, but she doesn’t know him well.
She wrote on her questionnaire: “Mr. Arbery was jogging and had no weapons. He was shot on the pretense that he was a burglar.”
She told prosecutor Linda Dunikoski she had tried to watch the video of the shooting. “I was sitting with my husband and he would not watch it. I could not finish it.”
She said she was willing to view the video if she’s on the final jury.
Asked if she had formed an opinion, she replied: “Obviously a crime was committed because there was an arrest.” She added: “I have the opinion this ended up in a fatality that probably could have been approached in a much different way.”
She also said she did not know the fine details of the case.
No. 219 is one of the panelists who said she wants to serve on the jury.
She told Dunikoski she had thought hard about whether she could be a fair, impartial juror. She discussed the question with her husband and prayed about it.
“I feel firmly that I could do that, I could open my mind and my soul and my thought processes.” No. 219 said. “I know how imperative that answer is and what weight it carries.”
Jason Sheffield, an attorney for Travis McMichael, pressed her on the opinions she had already expressed.
“Am I correct it was still your opinion as of this morning that a crime had been committed?”
“Yes, sir,” No. 219 said.
“And you had done a lot of pondering but it was still your opinion there was guilt somewhere?” Sheffield asked.
Is that a fixed opinion?
“If I am chosen, I understand my responsibility will be to come in with no opinion and a presumption of innocence.”
A woman that works for a nonprofit. Did a lot of research from George Floyd – all deaths this past year, which raised the consciousness of society which is way overdue.
When asked could you listen to the evidence and listen to the law? She replied, "I would hope so. I guess bc I feel there’s been a lot of injustice for many years for minority populations. So I feel strongly about ppl getting off that are wrongly convicted, am an honest person, am transparent in my believes, I do have strong feelings. I don’t believe in all lives matter I believe in BLM because they’ve been treated unjustly. I feel injustice in the system, the system is broken. Won’t lie. I am an honest person. Do my best to be a good citizen."
Do you have negative feelings?
"I don’t know them to feel anything. What they did is unconscionable to have arms and chase them down and shoot them. I would go after the person trying to shoot me too. Would they have done the same thing to me if I was in the neighborhood, I doubt it."
You raised hand for question old Georgia flag that had confederate symbols?
"I believe it has racist implications. It’s not the flag I want repping me as American citizen. Ppl feel statues are history, I still don’t want statues up bc it reflects racism. I don’t have close friends with confederate flag out. I socialize with ppl who are liberal and think like I do."
A man who said, "I know most ppl on trial. I don’t believe I could give conviction on anybody. In the Bible it tells you not to judge any man or woman. I know Arbery. I know Mr. Bryan. I know Mr. McMichaels who worked for DA."
Juror 234, who is self-employed, said she doesn’t know much about the case other than headlines seen on Facebook and bumper stickers saying “I run with Ahmaud.” She said her husband has tried to talk with her about the case but she hasn’t engaged.
“I go out of my way not to read news or politics,” she said. “I would rather spend my energy elsewhere.”
She said she does have some concerns about how polarizing the case has been in Glynn County.
“I think it would be naïve to think there couldn’t be real world repercussions,” No. 234 said.
Still, she said fear wouldn’t stop her from weighing the case fairly.
“Do I think I can withstand that? Yes. And if called to serve, I will.”
She was sent back to the panel.
Juror 235 said he actively read court documents in the case that are available online and researched Georgia’s former citizen’s arrest law that’s been raised as a defense in the shooting.
“I’ve read a lot on this,” he said. “I read up because I was trying to learn up a little more for this, and didn’t realize I was reading something I probably shouldn’t be reading.”
He said he works with a woman who testified, along with her husband, in favor of one of the three defendants at their bond hearing. But No. 235 said the court documents he had read _ including one that mentions a phone call from jail in which Greg McMichael had muttered “no good deed goes unpunished _ reinforced his belief that shooting Arbery was wrong.
“Where they said, `No good deed goes unpunished,’ to me that seemed very damning,” No. 235 said.
He also said: “I’ve read the citizen arrest law form the code, and to me it doesn’t fit at all.”
Prosecutor Paul Camarillo asked: “As you sit here today, do you think they’re guilty?”
“Yes, sir,” the potential juror said.
He said reading the actual court filings, which are public documents, had reinforced his opinions about the case because they’re official records.
Camarillo asked if his opinions were so fixed they couldn’t be changed.
“It would be very difficult,” No. 235 responded.
No. 236 knows Greg McMichael, but said they are not friends, she just saw him in passing.
No. 236 said at her job she helped process Greg McMichael’s personnel file when copies were requested last year by news organizations covering the case.
She supported former District Attorney Jackie Johnson, who has been indicted on misconduct charges related to the case, in her failed re-election campaign last year. The man who defeated Johnson, current District Attorney Keith Higgins, kept her on the staff.
No. 236 said she worried there would be “an appearance of impropriety” if she served on the jury, given her job and that she knows Greg McMichael.
“I don’t want to be a distraction and be a problem for a case that’s already caused problems in our community,” she said.
Judge Walmsley asked her: “Given your knowledge of Greg McMichael, sitting here today are you completely neutral in the case?’’
She answered, “Yes.”
No. 237 said he’s retired. He also looked at the online court documents in the case and said it would be hard to disregard them if he’s on the jury.
“Some things you just can’t unsee,” he told prosecutor Paul Camarillo.
He also said he’s got a vacation planned soon.
He was asked to rejoin the panel.
No. 240 said she’s retired and would worry about her ailing husband if she was on the jury.
“He’s off balance a lot and he always falls,” she said, adding that they live alone and she’s usually with him “all day, every day.”
“If he were to fall and you weren’t there, what would happen?” asked prosecutor Paul Camarillo.
“He would have to stay on the floor until he can get up,” No. 240 said.
She said she has seen the video of the shooting a couple of times and read about the case in the newspaper.
“They shouldn’t have did what they did. An innocent man was jogging,” she said when asked of her opinion of the case.
She was asked to rejoin the panel.
No. 242 said he's known both the McMichaels and Bryan for years.
He said he doesn’t think he can serve as an impartial juror.
“I just feel like I know them too good,” he told prosecutor Linda Dunikoski. “I want to be honest.”
Kevin Gough, Bryan’s attorney, asked if he could still listen to the trial evidence and base a decision on that if seated on the jury.
“I don’t know. It’s hard to say that,” No. 242 said. “I look at Travis and Greg and I’ve known them a long time.”
No. 246 said she’s a former teacher.
She’s read about Arbery’s slaying in the news. One reason she feels she can be impartial, she said, is that in her job as an educator: “I’ve learned to wipe the slate clean for every person I’ve come into contact with.”
She said she supports the Black Lives Matter movement and is raising Black children, and says she had talked with them that some people may look at them with suspicion when they enter stores and similar public places.
“Perhaps Ahmaud Arbery was looked at more closely because of his race,” said No. 246, who did not give her own race.
Jason Sheffield, an attorney for Travis McMichael, asked if she believes a crime was committed in Arbery’s death.
“I don’t know,” she said. “I have purposefully kept myself from it a bit.”
And she’s one of the few pool members so far to say she would like to serve on the jury in the trial of the McMichaels and Bryan.
“I kind of think it’s every American’s job to do as much as they can for their community,” No. 246 said. “When it comes to something this important, I don’t think it’s something you should shy away from.”
No. 247 said she owns her own business. She said one time she saw Arbery out running in the area where he and the McMichaels lived roughly 2 miles apart.
“He looked very young,” she said. “I thought he might be the same age as my son.”
Asked if that would impair her ability to be a fair juror, she said: “I don’t think that would be a factor.”
Defense attorney Robert Rubin asked how she knows the runner she saw was Arbery and not someone else.
“I guess I don’t really know for sure,” she said.
She said she’s seen the video of the shooting an watched video of a preliminary hearing in the case “that was pretty compelling.”
Rubin asked what she thought after watching that hearing.
“I think my opinion was that it would be very hard for them not to be found guilty,” No. 247 said. She added “it’s possible” she would be unable to set aside those feelings if she was on the jury.
She was asked to return to the panel.
No. 253 is a school worker. She said she has a sister who’s active in social justice causes, but the prospective juror herself never joins her.
“I mostly stay by myself,” she said, “and I don’t get into other people’s business.”
She owns a gun for protection, but said she keeps it at home and never takes it anywhere else.
She said she doesn’t know many details about Arbery’s slaying.
“The only thing I can tell is what I’ve seen on TV,” she said. “A lot about the police were in the area when Ahmaud got shot. That’s about all I know.”
On her juror questionnaire, she wrote that she felt it was wrong for Arbery to be killed.
“Before somebody pulls a gun out and shoots somebody, they should stop and think about it first,” she told Jason Sheffield, an attorney for Travis McMichael. “That’s what I was always taught.”
She said she felt could fairly serve as a juror.
She was asked to return to the panel.
No. 255 is retired and said he’s met Travis McMichael and has known Roddie Bryan for roughly 20 years.
He told prosecutor Linda Dunikoski that even though he’s not a close friend of either defendant, it would make it difficult for him to serve as an impartial juror.
“Just knowing somebody, yes it would,” he said.
No. 255 said he didn’t want to serve on the jury “because I don’t feel comfortable. I don’t like crowds and people and pressure.”
He was told to return to the panel.
No. 258 said he's a retired officer, with nearly three decades of experience.
He said he’s seen the video of Arbery being shot on TV news several times, but has had little interest in learning more about the case.
“After doing this for so long, it’s really not shocking to me,” No. 258 said. “When you’ve seen the number of things I have, it’s just another case.”
He said he’s served on a jury before, and testified in court in the past.
He was asked to return to the panel.
- None related by blood or marriage
- Nine said formed an opinion to guilt or innocence of defendants.
- Any prejudice on your mind for or against the accused? Three raised hands.
- Is your mind not perfectly impartial between the state and accused? One raised hand.
- Law enforcement officer? Yes jurors 211, 258
- Know DA Keith Higgins: jurors 223, 236
- Know Jackie Johnson? Jurors 223, 236
- Any opinion about 2020 election where then-DA Jackie Johnson was defeated? Jurors 212, 221, 236
- Opinion about why Cobb DA’s office assigned to case? Juror 236
- Know Kevin Gough? Juror 236
- Familiar with Gough because 212, 223, 236
- Know Travis? 242, 255
- Know Greg? 236, 242, 223
- Know Roddie? 223, 242, 255
- Know Amy Elrod? 242
- Know Greg Mc’s wife, Leigh? 242, 223
- Know Greg’s daughter? None
- Know Ahmaud Arbery? None
- Know Arbery’s mother? 223
- Know Arbery’s father? 223, 240
- Know Arbery’s brother, Marcus Jr.? 223, 240
- When got jury summons, did you look at case documents online? Yes 221, 223, 235, 237, 253
- Prior law enforcement training or experience? 211, 258
- Close friend in law enforcement? 211, 234, 236, 242, 253, 258
- Experience in social work? 212, 246
- Background in psychology, counseling? None
- Bad experience with a law enforcement officer? 212
- Good experience with law enforcement that stands out? 219, 247, 253
- Ever convicted of DUI or more serious? 218
- Close friend or family arrested or convicted of DUI or something more serious? 212, 236, 246, 255, 258
- Feel falsely accused of a crime whether involved police or not? 212
- Victim of a crime against your person? 212, 221, 223
- Close relative or family been victim of a crime against person 211, 240, 246
- Witnessed a crime in progress? 211, 234, 258
- Victim of burglary or home invasion? 212, 223, 235, 236, 246, 247, 253, 255, 258
- Close friend or family of burglary or home invasion? 212, 223, 234,
- Had a gun stolen out of your car? 247, 255
- Had to call 911 to report a crime? 258
- Ever taken it upon yourself to investigate a crime? None
- Recognize any other jurors when you checked in Monday? 228, 246, 253, 237, 258
- Own a gun? 211, 219, 221, 223, 228, 234, 235, 236, 237, 242, 247, 253, 255, 258
- Every carried a gun as part of job? 211, 258
- Non-military firearms training? 211, 253, 258
- Live in Satilla Shores? None
- Lives in Royal Oaks? None
- Living in Fancy Bluff? 247
- Religious, moral or ethical conviction that keeps you from passing judgment on another person? None
- Private reason can’t render verdict? None
- Close friends or family treated unfairly by justice system? 253
- Close friend or relative arrested in a shooting? 223
- Anyone who wants to serve on jury? 219, 246, 261
- Court has broken for lunch until 1:30.
- Jurors 211, the law enforcement officer, and No. 212, the woman 70 or older, have been dismissed for cause.