Jury selection for the federal hate crime trial of Ahmaud Arbery’s convicted killers began this week on Monday, February 7th. The three Georgia men who were charged with killing Arbery, Travis McMichael, 35, his father Greg McMichael, 65, and William “Roddie” Bryan, 52, were found guilty of murder last November and sentenced to life in prison last month. Bryan will be eligible for release after he has served at least 30 years of his sentence, while the other two men will serve life sentences without the possibility of parole. According to NPR, the federal hate crime trial will differ from the state trial because it will focus on whether the killing was racially motivated and whether the three defendants violated Arbery’s civil rights. The federal charges carry a maximum of life in prison.
Arbery, a 25-year-old Black man, had gone out for a jog on February 23, 2020, in the Satilla Shores neighborhood in Brunswick, Georgia, when he was shot and killed by Travis McMichael after McMichael, his father, and Bryan pursued Arbery through the neighborhood in their pick-up trucks. Arbery’s killing, which has been referred to as a “modern day lynching,” made national news and raised concerns about the racial inequalities in the justice system after a video of the fatal encounter circulated online months after the shooting. It was the release of the graphic video that eventually led to the arrests of the three White men responsible for Arbery’s death.
U.S. District Court Judge Lisa Wood stated in court on Monday that she plans on calling 50 jurors a day until a panel of 12 jurors and 4 alternates are found. According to Julie Campanini a jury consultant with Magna Legal Services, seating the jury and doing so quickly will be an issue due to the publicity that surrounded the murder and the state trial, as well as the number of defense attorneys and prosecutors who could potentially interview every juror. As of Monday, thirty potential jurors had qualified and will be advancing to the next round. The beginning of jury selection comes after the plea agreements for Travis McMichael and Greg McMichael fell through last week after U.S. District Court Judge Lisa Wood rejected Travis Michael’s plea, citing that it would bound her to a fixed 30-year-sentence in federal prison as well as the opposition from Arbery’s family.
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 how the state trial which concluded in November 2021 is different from the federal trial which began on Monday, February 7th.
- Debate: According to attorney J. Thomas Salata, selecting an impartial jury is going to be challenging in this case. Do you believe that the high-profile nature of the case will impact jury selection?
- Poll: U.S. District Court Judge Lisa Wood made the right decision in rejecting the plea deals following strong opposition from Arbery’s family. (Agree or Disagree).
- Short Answer: Discuss why the federal plea agreements fell through a week prior to the start of jury selection.
Cover Image: iStock/bymuratdeniz