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Trial for Ahmaud Arbery’s killers marred by allegations of biased jury selection

A nearly all-white jury will determine whether three white men were justified in following and shooting the Black 25-year-old jogger.

Opening arguments began Friday in the trial of three white men charged with murdering Ahmaud Arbery, a 25-year-old Black man.

Gregory McMichael, his son Travis McMichael and their neighbor William “Roddie” Bryan Jr. are accused of killing Arbery in February 2020 as he was jogging through a south Georgia neighborhood. Video of the incident captured by Bryan went viral and caused a huge public outcry.

The trial has been marred with controversy from the get-go, with jury selection resulting in just a single Black person being seated alongside 11 white people. Glynn County, where the trial is being held, is more than 26 percent Black. Judge Timothy Walmsley suggested Wednesday that the jury’s racial makeup gave the appearance of “intentional discrimination,” but he claimed the next day that there was nothing he could do about it.

“It’s just another injustice that we face daily,” Arbery’s aunt, Thea Brooks, told MSNBC on Thursday. 

MSNBC / Getty

During Friday’s opening arguments, lead prosecutor Linda Dunikoski played the now-viral video of the defendants pursuing and killing Arbery.

“We are here because of assumptions and driveway decisions,” she said. “In this case, all three of these defendants did everything that they did based on assumptions. And they made decisions in their driveways based on assumptions that took a young man’s life and that’s why we are here.”

Despite video showing the three men pursuing Arbery, defense attorneys for the McMichaels claim they followed and killed Arbery in self-defense. Their argument rests heavily on a racist Civil War-era law that essentially gave private citizens the right to arrest people they believe committed a crime. The men claim to have suspected Arbery of committing burglary, but there’s been no evidence provided to support their claims.

In opening statements, both of the McMichaels’ attorneys tried to paint Arbery as a menace and their clients as heroes for pursuing him. Bryan’s attorney deferred his opening statement until after the prosecution spoke.

“This is about duty and responsibility,” defense attorney Bob Rubin said during his opening statements. “It’s about Travis McMichael’s duty and responsibility to himself, his family and his neighborhood.”

Gregory McMichael’s attorney claimed Arbery, who wasn’t found with a weapon, was going to shoot and kill Travis McMichael after the three men stopped him. 

All three men charged with murdering Arbery have been indicted on federal hate crimes as well.

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