(NEW YORK) — The second day of jury selection in the high-profile murder case of Ahmaud Arbery commenced Tuesday, with prosecutors and lawyers finding it tough to impanel an impartial jury.
“I guess I would call it murder,” one potential juror vented on the three white Georgia men accused of chasing down and killing Arbery, a 25-year-old Black man.
Another would-be panelist put it bluntly when asked in court about his opinions of the case that has dominated headlines nationwide, but particularly in south Georgia, saying, “I’m sick of it.” Several potential candidates said they were worried about their safety if selected to serve.
In the first day and a half of the courtroom proceedings, no jurors have been selected and at least 14 of the first 40 questioned under oath so far have been dismissed, while others have yet to be individually questioned or told they may be called back. At least three of the potential panelists let go are Black and one is Hispanic, causing attorneys for Arbery’s family to be concerned.
“We certainly believe that there should be Black and brown voices, as well as white voices on the jury,” one of the family’s attorneys, Lee Merritt, said in an interview with ABC News’ Linsey Davis on Monday evening.
About 1,000 residents of Glynn County received a jury summons and questionnaire, or about 1 out of 85 eligible people living in a county that, according to U.S. Census data, is 69% white, 26% Black and 7% Hispanic.
The three defendants are Gregory McMichael, 65, a retired police officer, his son, Travis McMichael, 35, and their neighbor, William “Roddie” Bryan, 52. They have all pleaded not guilty to charges of murder, aggravated assault, false imprisonment and criminal attempt to commit false imprisonment stemming from the Feb. 23, 2020, fatal shooting of Arbery in the unincorporated Satilla Shores neighborhood near Brunswick.
The McMichaels claim they thought Arbery was a burglar and were exercising their rights under the state’s citizens’ arrest law, which has since been repealed. Travis McMichael is also claiming self-defense after allegedly shooting Arbery three times with a shotgun during a fight, according to his attorney.
Bryan made a cellphone video of part of the fatal confrontation, which is now being used as evidence against him and the McMichaels. Bryan’s attorney said he was only a witness to the crime, but prosecutors counter that he was an active participant in the pursuit of Arbery.
On Tuesday, the second batch of 20 potential jurors was sworn in by Chatham County Superior Court Judge Timothy R. Walmsley, who was appointed to preside over the Glynn County trial. Under general questioning from Walmsley, nine of the candidates raised their hands affirmatively when asked, “Have you for any reason formed or expressed an opinion in regard to the guilt or innocence of the accused?”
When asked by lead prosecutor Linda Dunikowski if there was anyone in the room who wanted to serve on the jury, no one raised their hand.
In an indication of how small Glynn County is, at least five jurors said they knew one or more of the defendants or some of the witnesses Dunikowski said could be called to testify.
One potential juror said she knew Jackie Johnson, the former Brunswick District Attorney. Johnson, the first prosecutor to get the case, was indicted in September on a felony count of violating her oath of office by allegedly “showing favor and affection” to Gregory McMichael, with whom she once had a working relationship, and a misdemeanor count of hindering a law enforcement officer.
During the questioning of individuals on Monday, some of the would-be panelists did not shy away from sharing their opinions.
“I think Mr. Arbery was probably in terror. I’m trying to be honest here,” a woman referred to as Juror No. 4, a retired accountant and auditor, said under questioning by defense lawyers.
After acknowledging her negative feelings toward Travis McMichael, she said, “He shot a man who had been running through his neighborhood who didn’t appear to have done anything wrong. What would I call that? I guess I would call it murder.”
A man referred to as Juror No. 2 said during questioning that he has shared the video of Arbery’s slaying on social media and discussed the case with his brothers — one of whom is also among the potential jurors summoned.
“I’m sick of it,” Juror No. 2 said of news of the case. “It’s everywhere. It’s around my job. Everywhere I look, it’s there.”
ABC News’ Janice McDonald contributed to this report.
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