Ahmaud Arbery murder trial begins with jury selection

Unarmed black man was fatally shot at close range in 2020 as he jogged in a south Georgia town

Jury selection began on Monday in the trial of the three white men charged in the death Ahmaud Arbery as he was jogging in a south Georgia neighbourhood on February 23, 2020.

The process to select the 12 jurors — plus four alternates — could last two weeks or more.

Arbery’s father said he is praying for an impartial panel and a fair trial, saying black crime victims too often have been denied justice.

“This is 2021 and it’s time for a change,” Marcus Arbery Sr said in an interview. “We need to be treated equally and get fair justice as human beings, because we’ve been treated wrong so long.”

Court officials in Glynn County, Georgia, mailed jury-duty notices to 1,000 people, expecting a potentially slow process to find jurors in a community where the killing dominated news coverage and swamped social media feeds.

Arbery, a 25-year-old black man, was jogging when he was chased down by three men and fatally shot.

Two of the men, Gregory McMichael and his son, Travis, said they suspected Arbery of burglary and were conducting a citizen's arrest. The third man, William “Roddie” Bryan Jr, recorded a video of Travis McMichael shooting Arbery from close range three times with a shotgun.

The circulated video of Arbery's death, along with the killing of Breonna Taylor and murder of George Floyd, sparked a movement across the US about the mistreatment of black people by law enforcement.

Greg McMichael said Travis fired his gun in self-defence after Arbery attacked him, punching and trying to grab the weapon.

Investigators have said that they found no evidence of crimes by Arbery in the Georgia neighbourhood where he was shot. He was unarmed.

Civil rights activists and Arbery's family say it was another example of a targeted attack on a black man.

“He was killed because he was a black man in Brunswick,” Mr Arbery told Reuters. “There's a God who is watching and he will put this all right.”

Arbery’s killing stoked outrage in the summer of 2020 during a period of national protests over racial injustice. More than two months passed before the McMichaels and Mr Bryan were charged and jailed, only after the video of the shooting leaked online and state investigators took over the case from local police.

The high-profile trial is likely to draw scores of protesters outside the courthouse in Brunswick, prompting community leaders to call for unity.

“After the trial is over and the busloads of demonstrators and media leave, we still have to live here. We still have to live with each other,” said Allen Booker, who represents Brunswick as the only black Glynn County commissioner.

Rabbi Rachael Bregman from a local synagogue said that when the trial begins, Brunswick will face more intense scrutiny and must rise to the challenge.

“We need to communicate to the world beyond Brunswick, we need to be positive. This community is working hard to stand together,” she said.

Updated: October 18th 2021, 9:01 PM
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