Why Arbery slaying video will be ‘star witness’ in trial

Published: Nov. 2, 2021 at 12:24 PM CDT
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BRUNSWICK, Ga. - No matter which witnesses testify in the trial over Ahmaud Arbery’s slaying, a key factor will likely be the video recorded by one of the defendants.

It’s hard to overstate the importance the video will have during the trial of the men accused of chasing and shooting Arbery.

University of Texas law professor Jeffrey Abramson called the clip the “star witness” of the case.

Father and son Greg and Travis McMichael and their neighbor, William “Roddie” Bryan, face an automatic life sentence if they’re convicted of murder in Glynn County Superior Court.

The three white men in pickup trucks pursed Arbery, a 25-year-old Black man, after spotting him running in their neighborhood last year.

Bryan took the cellphone video of the shooting that sparked a national outcry two months later.

Most prospective jurors questioned by the judge and attorneys say they’ve viewed the clip.

The suspects claim they thought Arbery was a burglar. The slain man’s family says he was jogging.

Jury selection proceedings are in their third week.

As Tuesday began, the number of qualified jurors stood at 54. The total dropped by one on Monday because one of the potential jurors needs to pick up her child every evening and the judge could not guarantee court would be wrapped up in time for her to make it.

The prosecution and defense need to qualify 10 more potential jurors to get to the 64 finalists to actually pick the jury from.

Monday’s screening process involved 17 potential jurors. Several from that group have already been eliminated from consideration for a variety of reasons. Some of those include age exemption, for those over 70 who just don’t want to, to folks who told the attorneys they have already made up their mind about guilt or innocence and cannot be persuaded differently.

Even though we’re still in jury selection, the lawyers in the courtroom are saying they expect the whole trial will be done by Nov. 19.

The attorney for Bryan asked the court Monday to consider adding more alternates, saying he doesn’t think four is enough. During individual questioning Monday, several potential jurors gave some insight into how they feel about the Arbery case.

One man told attorneys he thinks race played a role in the shooting, adding he didn’t think the events would’ve happened the same way if race had not been a factor. Another potential juror said he believes Arbery’s death was the result of unplanned escalation by the defendants, and they should not have even confronted him. The potential juror also said he doesn’t believe the men on trial had any intent to kill Arbery.

Abery’s death fueled nationwide protests over the slayings of Black people by white police officers — Gregory McMichael was a former police officer — and there were concerns that charges weren’t pursued until the video went viral and the Georgia Bureau of Investigation got involved. The woman who was district attorney at the time has been charged with shielding the suspects from prosecution.

The case brought about changes in the state’s citizens’ arrest law, which the McMichaels cited as a justification for their actions.

Arbery is buried near Waynesboro.

By The Associated Press, WTOC and WRDW/WAGT