The murder of the 25 year-old Black man sparked national outrage. Video of the shooting was leaked online two months after Arbery's death. Travis McMichael, Travis McMichael, and William Bryan, their neighbor are facing murder and other charges in the death of Arbery on February 23, 2020 just outside Brunswick.
Jury selection can take up to two weeks due to the sheer number of people who have applied. Arbery's father stated that he was praying for an impartial jury and fair trial because Black crime victims are too often denied justice.
Marcus Arbery Sr. stated that "This is 2021 and it's now for a change." We've been wrongly treated so many times that we need to be treated fairly and equally.
Monday afternoon, the first panel of 20 jurors was sworn into office and questioned.
Judge Timothy Walmsley asked them if they were neutral about the two sides. Only one person raised their hand. When asked if they lean toward one side or the other, approximately half of them raised their hands.
As Linda Dunikoski wrapped up her questions, Linda Dunikoski directed the group to raise their cards.
At first, no one did. One young man finally raised his hand.
Jason Sheffield, Travis McMichael’s attorney, asked the group if they had any negative feelings towards the three defendants. More than half of those surveyed raised their hands.
The potential jurors were then questioned individually after being asked as a group. The jurors' answers revealed their opinions about the case, their ideas and fears about participating in such high-profile cases.
A gun owner and Air Force veteran who was first questioned by the police said that he had a negative impression about Greg McMichael, but not of the other defendants.
"I got the impression that he was stalking," he said. He claimed that he had based his suspicions on news coverage and having seen the video "less than five times."
Greg McMichael is a retired investigator from the local district attorney's offices. "From what I saw, he seemed to be the leader dog," the panel member stated. He said that he was still not sure if he was innocent or guilty.
Another panelist stated that he had seen so many stories about the murders in the news and on social networks that he was sick of them.
Retired accountant, she said she felt negative about the defendants, but tried to avoid forming an opinion on guilt and innocence. She expressed reservations about serving on the jury.
She said, "How would you feel if I had to give a verdict that wasn't popular?" "Any verdict, innocent or guilty, will be dispopular with some people."
She added, "Maybe I'd even feel unsafe."
The court has not identified the race of any prospective jurors.
Arbery's murder sparked outrage in a time of national protests against racial injustice. The McMichaels, Bryan were arrested and sentenced after Bryan's video was leaked online.
Prosecutors claim that Arbery was only jogging at the time when McMichaels grabbed guns from him and chased him in their pickup truck. Bryan joined the chase in his truck and captured the now-famous cellphone video of Travis McMichael firing three shots at Arbery from close range using a shotgun.
Bryan was harshly criticized by a potential juror, a young teacher who was being questioned by defense lawyers.
She said, "His videotaping of the scene was disgustingly vicious." "But, I am thankful that he did it, because we can see what actually happened."
The defense attorneys claim that the men did not commit any crimes. Greg McMichael said that he believed Arbery was an intruder after security cameras had previously captured him entering a nearby house. After Arbery punched him, Travis McMichael shot in self-defense and tried to grab the weapon.
Investigators testified that there was no evidence of Arbery's crimes in Satilla Shores. He was unarmed.
600 members of the jury pool were asked to report to a gym to allow for social distancing. Glynn County Superior Judge Ronald Adams stated that they were summoned to courthouse in 20-member groups.
Final count will see 12 jurors seated, plus four alternates for jurors who are sick or dismissed prior to the trial.
Eight potential jurors were dismissed by the judge before the adjournment Monday evening. Four other potential jurors were interviewed individually, but no decision was made about their status. The jury selection process was resumed Tuesday morning.
Adams stated that the trial could last more than two weeks once a jury has been seated.