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US trial over shooting of Ahmaud Arbery opens with majority white jury

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Superior Court Judge Timothy Walmsley

Superior Court Judge Timothy Walmsley

Prosecutor Linda Dunikoski speaks during opening statements in the trial of William "Roddie" Bryan, Travis McMichael and Gregory McMichael, charged with the February 2020 death of 25-year-old Ahmaud Arbery. Photo: REUTERS/Octavio Jones/Pool

Prosecutor Linda Dunikoski speaks during opening statements in the trial of William "Roddie" Bryan, Travis McMichael and Gregory McMichael, charged with the February 2020 death of 25-year-old Ahmaud Arbery. Photo: REUTERS/Octavio Jones/Pool

People gather in front of a mural of Ahmaud Arbery painted on the side of The Brunswick African American Cultural Centre demanding justice for Mr Arbery in Brunswick, Georgia. Photo: REUTERS/Octavio Jones

People gather in front of a mural of Ahmaud Arbery painted on the side of The Brunswick African American Cultural Centre demanding justice for Mr Arbery in Brunswick, Georgia. Photo: REUTERS/Octavio Jones

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Superior Court Judge Timothy Walmsley

Opening statements began yesterday in the murder trial of three white men charged in the shooting death of Ahmaud Arbery, with a prosecutor telling jurors that faulty assumptions led them to chase down the 25-year-old black man.

Mr Arbery’s killing was largely ignored until a leaked mobile phone video stirred outrage that deepened a national reckoning over racial injustice.

Greg McMichael and his adult son, Travis McMichael, armed themselves and pursued Mr Arbery in a pickup truck as he ran through their neighbourhood just outside the Georgia port city of Brunswick on February 23, 2020.

A neighbour, William ‘Roddie’ Bryan, joined the chase and recorded graphic video of Travis McMichael shooting Mr Arbery three times with a shotgun.

“All three of these defendants did everything they did based on assumptions – not on facts, not on evidence,” prosecutor Linda Dunikoski told the jury as the trial began yesterday morning.

Georgia’s response to the killing has become part of a broader effort to address racial injustice in the criminal legal system after a string of fatal encounters between police and black people such as George Floyd in Minnesota and Breonna Taylor in Kentucky.

Superior Court Judge Timothy Walmsley swore in the disproportionately white jury yesterday before proceedings began. All three defendants are standing trial together, charged with murder

Greg McMichael, a retired investigator for the local district attorney, told police the men were trying to stop Mr Arbery because they suspected he was a burglar. Security cameras had recorded him entering a nearby house under construction.

Greg McMichael said his son killed Mr Arbery in self-­defence after Mr Arbery attacked with his fists and tried to take Travis McMichael’s gun. Prosecutors say Mr Arbery was merely out jogging, was unarmed and had committed no crimes in the area.

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It took the judge and attorneys two and a half weeks to select a jury.

Controversy erupted on Wednesday when prosecutors objected to a final jury consisting of 11 white and one black juror.

They argued that defence lawyers had cut eight potential jurors from the final panel because they are black. The judge agreed there appeared to be “intentional discrimination,” but said Georgia law limited his authority to intervene because defence attorneys stated non-racial reasons for excluding black panellists . 


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