Jury selection begins in hate crime trial of men convicted of killing Ahmaud Arbery

BRUNSWICK, Ga. (AP) — Jury selection began Monday in the federal hate crimes trial of three white men convicted of murdering Ahmaud Arbery, a black man whose death has become part of a toll broader national debate on racial injustice.

Given the pre-trial publicity, U.S. District Court Judge Lisa Godbey Wood ordered the mailing of approximately 1,000 jury notices to residents of 43 Georgia counties, some of them about a four hour drive from the Brunswick Coast Courthouse.

The first 50 members of the jury pool were due to appear for questioning on Monday to determine whether they are capable of serving as fair and impartial jurors. The judge plans to seat a 12-person jury plus four alternate jurors.

Father and son Greg and Travis McMichael armed themselves and used a pickup truck to chase Arbery, 25, after spotting him running in their neighborhood on Feb. 23, 2020. A neighbor, William “Roddie” Bryan, joined the chase in his own truck and cellphone video of Travis McMichael blasting Arbery with a shotgun.

All three were convicted of murder in Georgia state court the day before Thanksgiving and sentenced to life in prison a month ago. Federal prosecutors separated them from hate crimes, alleging the white men targeted Arbery and violated his civil rights because he was black.

In the state murder trial, defense attorneys argued that the defendants were justified in prosecuting Arbery because they suspected he had committed crimes in their neighborhood. Travis McMichael testified he opened fire in self-defense after Arbery attacked him with his fists and grabbed his shotgun.

Martin E. Berry