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BRUNSWICK, Ga (AP) – A judge is expected to address the jury selection process at a hearing Thursday for the upcoming murder trial of three men accused of killing Ahmaud Arbery, a black man who has been sued and shot dead after being seen running in a neighborhood in Georgia.
Judge Timothy Walmsley hosted a pre-trial conference with lawyers at the Glynn County Courthouse in Brunswick. The agenda also includes the schedule for the trial, which is due to begin on October 18.
Lawyers for two of the defendants – Greg McMichael and Travis McMichael – have decided to keep the media out of the courtroom when lawyers interview potential jurors to determine if they have biases in the high-profile case. They said it was essential that would-be jurors feel as comfortable as possible answering questions about race and other sensitive matters to ensure their clients are judged by an impartial jury.
The media, including the Associated Press, rejected this request. They argued it would violate a well-established precedent and said questioning potential jurors – a process known as voir dire – must be open to the public and the press. The shutdown can only be considered in “extraordinary circumstances” when a potential juror makes this request and there is evidence showing that a public questioning would significantly harm the person’s privacy, media said in a court file on Tuesday. .
Arbery’s murder sparked a nationwide uproar last year amid protests against racial injustice. The McMichaels – a white father and son – armed themselves with firearms and pursued Arbery in a van when they saw him running around their neighborhood on February 23, 2020. The third accused, William ” Roddie “Bryan, joined the chase and took cell phone video of Travis McMichael shooting Arbery three times at close range with a shotgun.
All three defendants declared that they had not committed any crime. Defense attorneys say the McMichaels had a valid reason to sue Arbery, believing he was a burglar, and that Travis McMichael shot him in self-defense as Arbery struggled for his shotgun.