Murder trial for 3 men accused of killing Ahmaud Arbery begins

A mostly white jury was chosen after the defense struck 11 of 12 Black jurors from the pool of eligible jurors.

BRUNSWICK, Ga. — First Coast News will be live-streaming opening statements Friday starting around 9 a.m. Watch live here.

The trial in the death of Ahmaud Arbery starts Friday morning in Brunswick after almost three weeks of jury selection.

A jury was chosen Wednesday, but not without controversy. Eleven of the 12 jurors are white, and just one member is Black. That’s 92 percent of the jury, far more than the population of Glynn County, which is 62 percent white and 26 percent Black. 

Court starts at 9 a.m. Friday. The judge will address any issues before the court, the jury will return and opening statements will start. 

Arbery was shot and killed on Feb. 23, 2020. Cellphone video leaked to the public shows two armed white men in a truck approaching the 25-year-old Black man as he runs down the road. One of the men, later identified as Travis McMichael, and Arbery struggle over McMichael’s shotgun before Arbery is shot and collapses.

Travis McMichael, his father Gregory McMichael and William “Roddy” Bryan, who recorded the video, are all charged with murder in Arbery’s death.

Travis McMichael’s attorney, Jason Sheffield, said he expects Friday’s opening statements to take one hour per defendant.

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Late Thursday, the judge struck one juror for medical reasons and replaced her one of the four alternates, also a white woman. Three alternates are left.

Thursday, the court handled mostly housekeeping matters, including several motions. Judge Timothy Walmsley granted the state’s motion preventing the defense from using toxicology reports that showed small amounts of THC in Arbery’s bloodstream. 

The defense argued its expert, a psychiatrist, confirmed Arbery was diagnosed with a schizoaffective disorder and “an individual with a schizoaffective disorder who uses THC has a higher incidence of aggression.” The state argued the defense’s psychiatrist shouldn’t be able to speak about Arbery’s THC use. 

Walmsley also granted the state’s motion excluding the use of force expert that Travis McMichael’s attorneys hoped to have testify. The defense argued the expert could offer insight into if Travis McMichael’s actions in the video of the fatal shooting align with use of force tactics. 

The state said while Travis McMichael is a former Coast Guard Officer, he wasn’t an acting law enforcement officer when the shooting happened. The state also said it is contradictory to the defense’s main argument of self-defense and citizen’s arrest. 

The judge will also allow some body camera footage that the defense said was too graphic. Prosecutors argued the video is necessary because it shows what happens when someone shoots another person. Prosecutors also said they don’t want to hide anything from the jurors.

The judge went on to say if people in the gallery think they may have an outburst in reaction to evidence that will disrupt the court, to leave while it’s presented.

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