These statements were made in response to questions about race by prosecutors and defense lawyers who want to place an impartial jury in the trial of Arbery's murder in Brunswick, Georgia. Some pointed responses were received to these questions.
"The whole case about racism," said one woman identified as potential juror No. Thursday, 199, was heard in courtroom. She claimed that the three men accused of murder "hunted him down, and killed him like an ape."
Another potential juror, No. Another prospective juror, No. 72, stated to the attorneys that if it were a white man running through the neighborhood, I don’t believe he would be targeted as a suspect.
Defense attorneys have long argued for dismissal of potential jurors who view Arbery as being a victim of prejudice racial. Several of them, including No. No.199 and 72 are among them. Superior Court Judge Timothy Walmsley has deemed them qualified to continue in the pool from which a final juror will be selected.
Michael Schiavone, a Savannah defense attorney, said that "it could be devastating for defense." He is not involved in the case. "I was skeptical that they would be fair after giving me their opinion."
Georgia law allows potential jurors to show up with preconceived opinions regarding a case. However, they are not automatically disqualified if they promise to put those opinions aside and be fair and impartial during the hearing of trial evidence. Walmsley repeatedly referred to this standard.
After spotting Arbery, 25, running through their neighborhood on February 23, 2020, Greg McMichael armed himself and Travis McMichael (his adult son) followed McMichael in a pickup truck. William Bryan, a neighbor, joined the chase. He recorded cellphone video of Travis McMichael firing three shots at Arbery with a shotgun.
Defense lawyers claim Bryan and McMichaels had probable cause to suspect Arbery of committing crimes in the area after he was caught on security cameras at a house under construction. According to them, Travis McMichael used his shotgun as self-defense against Arbery who attacked him with his fists.
Until the video was posted online, no one was charged or arrested in connection with the murder.
"If it were completely reversed, and the three men were Black, and the victim was white, they would immediately be arrested," another potential juror, No. 571, told attorneys during questioning Wednesday. She was also found qualified to continue in the jury pool by the judge.
Jeffrey Abramson, a law professor from the University of Texas, and author of "We, the Jury" (a 1994 book about the University of Texas), said that if any defendants are convicted, the judge's refusal to dismiss jurors who have expressed strong opinions may be used as grounds for appeal.
Abramson said, "It could back to bite you," but he also stated that the judge was "doing his best job in a tremendously delicate and difficult situation."
The death sentence for Dzhokhar Trarnaev, who was convicted in the Boston Marathon bombings, was overturned by a federal appeals court. It concluded that the trial judge had failed to properly screen jurors for biases. The U.S. Supreme Court has yet to rule on the decision.
Glynn County Superior Court is bringing Arbery's murder case to trial. They are being charged with murder, assault, false imprisonment, and attempted false imprisonment. These charges do not require evidence of racism. They are also facing federal hate crime charges in a separate case that will be tried next year.
Many see the state murder case, which is being tried in the United States, as part of a national assessment of how the criminal justice system treats Black victims. This is similar to the April conviction of Derek Chauvin, a former Minneapolis police officer, for George Floyd's death.
One potential juror, No. No. 475 told attorneys that it felt like "when it rains, it pours over the past year." This was in reference to the national outcry about racial injustice. He felt that the deaths of Blacks such as Floyd and Arbery had been "all lumped together".
The man said that he felt it had made his town look bad and blamed the defendants for focusing on "a Black man in a white area."
The court has not given information about the race of any individual members of the jury pool, nor have they been openly asked about their backgrounds. When being questioned, few potential jurors revealed their race.
All the jurors the judge has deemed qualified for the jury said that they would be open to considering other options if they were among the 12 jurors or four alternates on the panel. Others were dismissed by the judge after he concluded that they had fixed opinions on the case.
One woman was dismissed from jury service, No. Attorneys were told by No.164 that Arbery was pursued and shot in a manner "almost like an execution."
Another person who was fired, No. 485, stated that they were certain that No.