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Glitch gave potential jurors easy access to Ahmaud Arbery’s mental health records, forbidden evidence

Glynn County officials have removed hyperlinks from their juror information web page that connected to case information that’s been disallowed as evidence.

BRUNSWICK, Ga. — Glynn County officials have removed hyperlinks on their juror information page that gave easy access to case information, including information about Ahmaud Arbery that will not be allowed at trial.

The county’s Superior Court website has for months featured a navigation sidebar with links to the court dockets of Greg McMichael, Travis McMichael and Roddie Bryan – three white men charged with murdering Arbery in February 2020. As on many websites, the sidebar repeated on multiple pages, including the recently created juror information page.

That offered an irresistible opportunity for curious potential jurors, some of whom acknowledged they “looked at the documents online.” One potential juror Thursday said he actively researched the case using the publicly available docket. That likely exposed him to information he will not be allowed to consider if he is selected to serve, including THC levels in Arbery’s blood when he died, and his mental health history.

RELATED: Day 4 | Notes from the courtroom during jury selection in death of Ahmaud Arbery trial

“I’ve read a lot on this,” potential juror #235 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 believed the three defendants were guilty, and said the fact he got his information from court records reinforced his opinions because they’re official documents.

The hyperlink issue was first reported by Vice, which quoted Glynn County Superior Court Clerk Ronald Adams as saying on Tuesday morning, “We are aware of that issue, and the decision about that will be made by the judge." The links were subsequently removed.

Concerns about exactly what jurors are exposed to also surfaced in discussions about signs being displayed outside and buttons being worn inside court by those supporting the family of Ahmaud Arbery.

William Roddie Bryan’s attorney Kevin Gough told Superior Court Judge Timothy Walmsley that he’s concerned by a large banner displayed by the Transformative Justice Coalition on the courthouse lawn. He also objected to a button by the same group worn by Arbery’s father Marcus Sr. into court. It features the likeness of late Representative John Lewis along with one of his signature phrases, “Make Good Trouble.”

Gough also complained about a child who’s been riding a toy motorcycle outside the courthouse wearing a “Justice for Ahmaud” sign.

Credit: Anne Schindler
A child's sign in support of Ahmaud Arbery drew the ire of defense attorneys who are concerned about juror exposure to outside influence.

Judge Walmsley said he wasn’t inclined to limit the speech of protesters outside, but did say wearing logos or statements in court will not be permitted.

Glynn County Sheriff Neal Jump says from his perspective, the protesters have been orderly and cooperative.

“The groups that have been out here this week have been great,” he told First Coast News. “And what you see if you’re a visitor to Glynn County that we are a good community and we’ve got to go through this process and we’ve got to get the fairness out and unite and come together and prayer and positive communication goes a long way.”

Credit: First Coast News
Travis McMichael (left), Gregory McMichael and William "Roddy" Bryan in court on day four of jury selection in the death of Ahmaud Arbery trial.