Federal hate crimes trial begins for Ahmaud Arbery’s convicted killers

BRUNSWICK, Ga. — Day one of jury selection wrapped up on Monday for the federal hate crimes trial of three white men convicted of murdering Ahmaud Arbery.

The case has earned national attention with many calling Arbery’s killing racially motivated.

Given the publicity of the case, roughly 1,000 jury duty notices were mailed out in more than 40 Georgia counties. Cameras aren’t allowed inside the federal courtroom in Brunswick but we can tell you in a trial that will largely center around race out of the first group of potential jurors, 19 were white and 6 were black.

All 25 potential jurors admitted Monday morning they knew something about this case.

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Our Action News Jax Law and Safety expert Dale Carson said one of the biggest challenges Judge Lisa Godbey Wood will face is picking a jury that will not have already formed an opinion or have any biases.

“A proper jury is absolutely required in order to obtain a fair verdict. In a circumstance like this one where there’s been a lot of pre-trial publicity. It is often hard to find a jury that will fit that requirement,” Carson said. Godbey Wood read the indictment in court on Monday which she said will not be used as evidence. It is simply to go over the federal charges Travis and Gregory McMichael and their neighbor William Bryan are facing. That includes violating Ahmaud Arbery’s civil rights because of his race and attempted kidnapping. The judge asked these potential jurors a series of questions including if they knew the defendants

One woman known as potential juror #3 raised her hand and said she knew William Bryan for the last 6 years. He did lawn work for her and she feels bad for him.

On Monday 50 potential jurors were expected to have been questioned inside the Federal Courthouse. The judge plans to seat a fair and impartial jury of 12 members with four alternates.

Once a jury is selected, Godbey Wood said the trial should last between 7 to 12 days, a timeline Carson said is not so uncommon in a federal case. “The information that’s going to be presented to the juror by the witnesses, by the defense attorneys and by the prosecutors is fairly narrow. It’s not broad spectrum like it would be in an actual murder trial,” Carson said.

Action News Jax has compiled much of our coverage from the case since the killing of Ahmaud Arbery in Feb., 2020. You can find that here.

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