Juror selection pool widened to 43 Georgia counties in federal case against Ahmaud Arbery killers

The three men convicted of killing Ahmaud Arbery earlier this year are preparing for yet another trial in February.

The three are facing federal hate crime and attempted kidnapping charges.

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In a federal courtroom Monday, a judge resolved remaining requests from the prosecution and defense.

Judge Lisa Wood granted two requests at the hearing, each jointly filed by both sides.

The first called for a wider juror selection from all 43 counties in Georgia’s southern district.

Both sides agreed it would improve the odds of an impartial jury.

Another request was for a 14-page questionnaire to be sent out to potential jurors when they’re notified for jury duty, which was an attempt to weed out biased jurors. That request was granted with a few changes to some questions.

The judge said 1,000 jury notices will be sent out throughout those 43 Georgia counties.

Action News Jax law and safety expert Dale Carson said the questionnaire is not an unusual procedure. Carson has years of experience in law enforcement, including time with the FBI.

“I think that’s an intelligent way for the courts to limit the number of prospective jurors which can be enumerable,” Carson said.

Lastly, the third request filed by Travis McMichael’s attorney to move the location of the trial outside of Brunswick was denied.

After the hearing, founder and president of Transformative Justice Coalition Barbara Arnwine praised judge Wood’s decisions.

“I thought that was an important part of her decision making today was to make sure the trial was kept here in Brunswick,” Arnwine said.

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Beside her stood Ahmaud’s father Marcus, who hopes the hate crime charges send a message to the world.

“All races should be free to run anywhere they want to go without somebody shooting them,” Marcus Arbery Sr. said.

Although the two walked away satisfied after Monday’s hearing, they said they hope to see some changes in the federal trial compared to the state trial, especially when it comes to jury selection.

Arnwine commended the decision to limit juror questioning.

“She (Judge Wood) said she’s going to ask the questions to the degree questions have to be asked. And very limited attorney questioning, which I thought was a very big problem in the state case,” Arnwine said.

With a bigger jury pool, Arnwine hopes the selection process is less about race.

“I’m praying we don’t have to go through that again. That fight over race being used to exclude jurors. That would be vicious and ugly,” Arnwine said.

New this time around, Arnwine expects more evidence to come out in court. This is evidence prosecutors originally tried to enter into the state’s case, including text messages and social media posts made or shared by the defendants.

“They will fight to get that in,” Arnwine said.

Arnwine also said there are Facebook posts and even some videos we haven’t seen.

Travis McMichael’s attorney did not want to comment on the hearing.

Gregory McMichael’s attorney did not wish to comment either.

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We also reached out to William Bryan’s attorneys and have not heard back.

The final pretrial hearing is set for Jan. 31.

The trial start date is Feb. 7.

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