Welcome back to our ongoing coverage of the Ahmaud Arbery case, in which defendants Greg McMichael, Travis McMichael, and William Bryan are being tried for murder and other charges in the shooting death of Arbery. I am, of course, Attorney Andrew Branca, for Law of Self Defense.
Today the court proceeded with jury selection, or voir dire, in the case, with the goal of empaneling 12 jurors and 4 alternates. Today was the fifth group of prospective jurors put through the selection process, with each group nominally numbering 20 people (note that there was no jury selection conducted this past Friday, as the court was in recess for the day due to some personal conflict of one of the lawyers involved in the case).
Today’s voir dire process mirrored that of last week, with general (group) voir dire being conducted in the jury assembly room, and subsequent individual voir dire conducted in the courtroom afterwards (again, with no audio). We’ll share our notes and video of the general voir dire proceedings with you here.
I did notice that the juror numbers from last Thursday, the last day of general voir dire, ranged in the high 200’s, and the juror numbers from today ranged in the high 300’s. This would almost seem to suggest that several blocks of 20 prospective jurors had been skipped for some reason–but that’s speculation on my part.
Key Findings of Today’s General Voir Dire
Of particular note from today’s general voir dire:
- When asked by Judge Walmsley, only four (20%) of this pool of prospective jurors indicated that they had already formed or expressed an opinion as to the guilt or innocence of the defendants. In contrast, that figure last Thursday was 45%.
- Almost half (40%) of prospective jurors indicated they had a relative or close friend in law enforcement.
- An identical portion (40%) had a relative or close friend who had been arrested or convicted of a serious crime.
- Just over one-third (35%) had been victims of violent or personal crime.
- A slightly smaller number (30%) had been victims of burglary or home invasion.
- A substantial majority (65%) possessed firearms in their homes.
- Just under one-third (30%) believed the old Georgia flag, based around a Confederate flag motif, was a symbol of racism.
- The same portion (30%) felt that people of color were not treated fairly by the criminal justice system.
- Just over one-third (35%) believed that the police, generally speaking, did not treat people of color and white people equally.
- The same portion (35%) professed to have some issue at work or home that would keep them from concentrating their full attention on the trial if they were selected as a juror.
General Voir Dire
Once again today’s general voir dire was a four-stage process, with welcoming remarks and a few questions from Judge Walmsley, then extensive questioning by Prosecutor Linda Dunikoski, more succinct questioning by Defense Counsel Jason Sheffield, and finally closing remarks and cautions by Judge Walmsley, after which the court transitioned into individual voir dire.
Judge Walmsley Welcomes and Questions Prospective Jurors
As one would expect, Judge Walmsley’s opening remarks to the prospective jurors today was essentially identical to his remarks from yesterday.
It was here that only 20% of the prospective jurors indicated they had formed or expressed an opinion on the guilt of the defedants. In contrast, that figure last Thursday was 45%.
Here are Judge Walmsley’s four general voir dire questions to the prospective jurors, and their numbered responses:
Are any members of panel related by blood or marriage to any defendant or Ahmaud Arbery? 408, 411
Formed or expressed any opinion re: guilt or innocence of accused? 377, 379, 390, 397
Have you any prejudice or bias resting on your mind either for or against the accused? Judge didn’t read aloud the number! Seemed just one.
Not impartial between state and accused? 377, second he didn’t say aloud!
At that point he handed over general voir dire to the State, in the form of Senior ADA Linda Dunikoski.
Senior ADA Linda Dunikoski
Once again, ADA Dunikoski took just over 40 minutes to work through roughly 80 questions identical to those she asked yesterday, as well as to read through a lengthy list of prospective witnesses to see if any were known to the panel. Like yesterday, the state had about 80 general voir dire questions for the prospective jurors.
Do any of you know us [prosecutors]? No one.
Anyone not currently reside in Glynn County? No one.
Anyone under 18 years old? No one.
Anyone convicted of felony and not had rights restored? No one.
Anyone who sat on the grand jury that returned this indictment in this case? No one.
Anyone here who is a POST-certified LEO with arrest powers? No one.
Anyone 70 or older and does not wish to serve on jury? No one.
Anyone full-time student currently enrolled and atttending classes? No one.
Anyone full-time caretaker of child 6 or younger and no alternative child care? No one.
Anyone full-time caretaker of elderly or disabled person, no alternative? No one.
Anyone have difficulty hearing? 390
Anyone who has difficulty with English language? 390
Anyone have unavoidable personal conflict with trial schedule, surgery, birth of grandchild in distant state, etc.? 408, 415, 377
Any related by blood or marriage to local DA Keith Higgins? No one. Know him personally? No one.
Anyone related by blood or marriage to former DA Jackie Johnson? No one. Know her personally? No one.
DA pro-tem, Flynn Brody, anyone related by blood or marriage? No one.
Any opinion on election where Jackie Johnson defeated by Keith Higgins for DA? No one.
Anyone have opinion why Cobb County DA office assigned to case by Georgia AG? No one.
Anyone here unable to give state fair trial because we DAs not from here, from Cobb County? No one.
Anyone related to Waycross DA George Barnhill? No one.
Barnhill Jr.? Former local prosecutor, now in private practice, in Brunswick? No one.
Know Atlantic DA? No one.
Anyone know any of the defense attorneys (names them in pairs for each defendant)?
Defense counsel Gough, related by blood or marriage: 392
Know Gough by his work as lawyer? No one.
Know Travis McMichael? No one.
Know Greg McMichael? No one.
Know “Roddy” Bryan? 383
Know Ahmaud Arbery? 411, 408
Know Arbery’s mother, Wanda Cooper Jones? 408, 411
Markus Arbery Sr., Ahmaud’s father? 408, 411
Markus Arbery Jr. , Ahmaud’s brother? 408, 411
Know Ms. Elrod? 383
Lee McMichael, Travis mother? 402
Lindsey McMichael, Travis sister? No one.
Anyone know Judge Walmsley? No one.
Anyone here previously been through jury service, to a verdict? 377, 380, 383, 415
Were any of you foreman? No one.
Did you reach verdict? 380, 383, 377. 415–they settled.
Anyone sat on a grand jury before? No one.
When received summons for jury duty, directed to web site, there were documents related to this case, did you look at them? 377
Anyone serve in military? No one.
Anyone have prior LEO experience, previously POST-certified? 381 (Federal)
Anyone have close friend or family member in law enforcement or previously? 377, 379, 380, 381, 392, 397, 411, 415
Anyone have experience in field of social work? No one.
Work or education in counseling, psychology, psychiatry? No one.
Have experience in legal field, lawyer, paralegal, took classes on law, etc. 392
Anyone have experience in criminal justice field? Prison work, mentoring in prison? 381
Related to or close friend who works in a prosecutor’s officer, anywhere? No one.
Anyone who has medical training, beyond CPR or lifeguard? 402, 414
Anyone know criminal defense attorney? 392
Notable bad experience with law enforcement? No one.
Notable good experience with law enforcement? No one.
Notable bad experience with prosecutor? No one.
Notable good experience with prosecutor? No one.
Notable bad experience with criminal defense attorney? No one.
Notable good experience with criminal defense attorney? No one.
Anyone arrested or convicted for something like DUI or more serious? Not traffic. 380, 379, 395, 402, 390
Close friend or relative arrested or convicted of serious charge? 379, 397, 402, 396, 411, 414, 386, 390
Anyone falsely accused of crime, whether involved police or not? 396, 411
Close friend or relative falsely accused of crime, police involved or not? No one.
Anyone been a victim of a violent crime or crime against your person? 395, 396, 386, 402, 403, 409, 415
Close friend or relative victim of violent crime or crime against person? 386, 402, 408
Anyone witnessed violent crime in progress? 381, 411
Anyone taken cell phone video of crime in progress? No one.
Anyone victim of burglary or home invasion? 380, 383, 386, 402, 414, 415
Close friend or relative victim of burglary or home invasion? 379, 402
Ever had a firearm stolen out of your car? 402, 415 (out of house, not car), 383 (stolen from house), 380 (stolen from house?)
Ever had to give a statement to law enforcement, beyond traffic? 386, 402, 396, 414
Ever call 911 about a crime? 402, 403
Ever been a witness at trial, sworn, civil or criminal? 396, 397, 381, 415
Have you ever taken upon yourself to investigate a crime? No one.
Friend or family member who has taken upon self to investigate a crime? No one.
Recognize any other prospective juror in this room? No one.
At Selden Park last Monday (initial report for jury duty), recognize anyone ther? 377, 379, 381, 395, 402, 408, 409
You or anyone in household owns firearm? 377, 379, 380, 381, 383, 386, 392, 397, 402, 408, 409, 411, 415 (13/20)
Ever had to carry gun for job? 381
Anyone have non-military, non-LEO firearms training, took a class? 383, 392, 386, 402, 396, 414
Lived in Glynn County less than 5 years? 379, 386, 403, 411
Anyone currently reside in Scitilla Shores neighborhood? No one. Previously? No one.
Particularly familiar with that neighborhood? No one.
Anyone currently reside in Royal Oaks neighborhood? No one. Previously? No one. Particularly familiar with that neighborhood? 409, 415
Across highway 17, Fancy Bluff neighborhood, anyone live there? No one. Previously? No one. Particularly familiar? 409
Anyone here have religious, moral, ethical conviction that would keep you from passing judgment on a person, unable to return a verdict, never going to happen, guilty or not guilty? 390
Anyone have personal conviction unable to pass judgment, unable to render verdict? 390
Reverse question, anyone does NOT belong to any social group, no church, no bowling league, no book club, no professional association, etc. 392, 396, 402, 403
Anyone here or relative or close friend ever been arrested and thought treated unfairly by either police or criminal justice system? No one.
Anyone here, relative, or close friend ever arrested for kidnapping or false imprisonment? No one.
Anyone here, relative, close friend ever arrested for shooting someone? No one.
Anyone here, relative, close friend ever arrested for murder? 397, 380
Anyone feels will be unable to follow law as instructed by Judge Walmsley, even if disagree with it? No one.
Anyone here who WANTS to serve on jury? 396
Anyone thinking now they should have raised card to prior question? 395, about Markus Sr., went to school with him, knew him by nickname.
433, medical training.
415, know Greg McMichael from coming into my business.
Juror 390 is accompanied by a person younger than 390, who is addressing the court at this point in time, what’s your relation to juror 390? She’s my mother.
Judge Walmsley: Language issue? She doesn’t speak English. First language is Spanish. 90% she doesn’t understand. Interpreter required all the time. But she does know someone who was involved in shooting, suicide.
408, DUI of relative.
381, medical training, and social group, not part of such groups.
383, DUI of relative.
ADA Dunikoski then read through her extensive list of possible witnesses, inquiring as to each if any of the jurors knew any of them.
Having completed her questioning of the prospective jurors, ADA Dunikoski turned the pool over to the defense.
Defense Counsel Jason Sheffield
Defense Counsel Jason Sheffield conducted the general voir dire for the defense as a whole (although, technically speaking, he represents only Travis McMichael).
It is notable that Sheffield again introduced Travis McMichael as “former Coast Guard,” without objection from either State prosecutors, nor objection from the court. Accordingly, I expect this will be done in every general voir dire.
Sheffield’s questioning of the pool took about 13 minutes, asking about 20 questions identical to those he asked yesterday.
Anyone know Travis McMichael, “former Coast Guard”? 415
Anyone know Greg McMichael? 415
Anyone know Roddy Bryan? 383, 395, 415
Any of you, after seeing what’s in media, or in community, developed a negative feeling about Travis McMichael? 377, 392, 395, 397
Anybody developed negative feeling about Greg McMichael? 377, 392, 397
Anyone developed negative feeling about Roddy Bryan? 377, 392, 397
Negative thoughts or feelings about criminal defense lawyers? No one.
Anyone have NO firearms in your home? 395, 396, 403, 414, 416, 390 (?)
Anyone ever voted for or supported political candidate based on position to limit gun rights?
Anyone oppose the laws that allow for open or concealed carry in public places? 390
A lot of demonstrations, marches, gatherings, locally and elsewhere, participate in any of these demonstrations or marches pursuant to social justice movement, before or after the shooting in this case? 403, 414, 381
Anyone supported in any way the Black Lives Matter movement, whether financial support or bumper sticker or yard sign, whatever. 397, 403, 411, 414
Anyone feels ever been denied any opportunity because of ethnicity or race? 380, 390
Anyone feels been falsely accused of doing something wrong of anything or suspected based on race or ethnicity? 411
Also 390 to last question (translation required, so delay)
Anyone agree the old Georgia flag, from 1956 to 2002, was a racist symbol? No one.
Anyone agree that people of color are not treated fairly by criminal justice system? 379, 380, 386, 395, 397, 403
Anyone feel, about police in general, do not treat equally black and white people? 380, 386, 395, 392, 397, 403, 411
Any experience with psychology or psychiatrists led you to believe they could find mental illness in just about anybody? 379, 396
Anyone have anything going on at home or work so difficult that it will consume your thoughts while sitting in trial, we will not have your full attention at all times, impair your ability to give your full attention, could be two, three week trial? 383, 392, 377, 390, 397, 408, 411 (7/20)
On subject of full attention during trial, we will take breaks, but if you have a mental, physical, visual, auditory hearing issue that could impair your ability to focus on trial, would need more than usual breaks? 390, 397, 416
Lastly, anyone here concerned that their verdict could in some way affect them after this trial when back in community, at home, at church, with friends, or professional associations, cause concern or problem? 402
After the defense had worked through its questions, the proceedings were returned to Judge Walmsley.
Judge Walmsley Closing Remarks and Cautions to Prospective Jurors
Judge Walmsley informed the prospective jurors that they’d take a short recess and then transition into individual voir dire in which they would be questioned separately to follow up on these and other questions.
He cautioned them that until he instructs them otherwise that they were not to discuss the case amongst themselves or others, not to search out information about the case, not visit the neighborhoods involved, none of that. Further, if anyone approaches them about the case, or is discussing the case within their hearing, they are to notify the court.
And with that the court recessed, to come back into session a short time later with individual voir dire.
Individual Voir Dire: No Useful Coverage
As noted, individual voir dire is broadcast without sound, so that broadcast is of little use for purposes of analysis. Basically the broadcast of individual voir dire consists of video of this scene, without sound, for hours:
Presumably, local journalists will be reporting the bare facts such as how many jurors were dismissed and how many were seated, and we’ll share that information with all of you as it comes our way.
OK, folks, that’s all I have for you on this topic.
Until next time:
You carry a gun so you’re hard to kill.
Know the law so you’re hard to convict.
Attorney Andrew F. Branca
Law of Self Defense LLC
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Only 20% of pool conceded pre-formed opinion on guilt – Law of Self Defense is written byAttorney Andrew Brancafor lawofselfdefense.com