The trial for the murder of Ahmaud Arbery began in a Glynn County courtroom in Georgia on Monday, October 18th, 2021. Arbery, a 25-year-old Black man, was out for a jog in the Satilla Shores neighborhood near the city of Brunswick, Georgia, when he was chased down and fatally shot on February 23, 2020.
Two of the accused, Gregory McMichael, a 65-year-old former police officer and district attorney’s investigator, and his 35-year-old son, Travis McMichael, allege that they were conducting a citizen’s arrest on Arbery after suspecting him of burglary. The younger McMichael claims that he shot Arbery in self-defense. The McMichael’s neighbor, 52-year-old William “Roddie” Bryan Jr., who recorded a video of the incident, allegedly hit Arbery with his pickup truck after he joined the McMichael’s in chasing down Arbery. The men were allowed to leave the scene and were not arrested by the police until the video shot by Bryan Jr. was made public in May 2020. They have all plead not guilty after they were indicted by a grand jury on July 2020 on a series of state charges including malice murder, felony murder, aggravated assault, false imprisonment, and criminal attempt to commit false imprisonment, as well as federal hate crime charges.
The murder of Arbery, as well as the killings of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, helped sparked the Black Lives Matter protests that occurred nationwide last summer. Arbery’s murder reignited discussions about racial profiling and in his case, issues pertaining to a Civil War era law on citizen’s arrests. According to the old law, “a private person may arrest an offender if the offense is committed in his presence or within his immediate knowledge. If the offense is a felony and the offender is escaping or attempting to escape, a private person may arrest him upon reasonable and probable grounds of suspicion.” After facing pressure from civil rights activists, Georgia’s Governor, Brian Kemp, repealed the law.
The voir dire or jury selection process which began this week is expected to go into next week as six hundred potential jurors were summoned to appear at an offsite location on Monday, and another four hundred will be summoned next Monday. Twelve impartial jurors and four alternates will be impaneled by the trial judge overseeing the case before the next stage in the trial begins: opening statements.
Instructors, click on the link below to download this week’s lecture for use in your classroom.
The deck contains a writing prompt, a debate question, as well as other assessment questions.
- Writing: Explain why the jury selection or voir dire process is critical.
- Debate: According to Areva Martin a legal analyst and civil rights attorney, the first prosecutor in the case, Jackie Johnson, played favoritism towards one of the defendants who had worked in her office, which ultimately delayed the indictment of the three defendants. Do you think that the indictment of the prosecutor is going to come into play as both sides try to pick impartial jurors?
- Poll: It is going to be difficult to find jurors that are impartial due to the publicity that the Ahmaud Arbery murder case has received. (Agree or Disagree).
- Short Answer: Discuss what the jury selection or voir dire process entails and how long the process generally takes.
Cover Image: istock.com/ftwitty