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.
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 afterward (again, with no audio). We’ll share our notes and video of the general voir dire proceedings with you here.
One exceptional part of today’s proceedings, and the cause of an hour-plus-long delay in the start of voir dire, was legal argument in the courtroom on two main issues.
First, the defense attorneys are increasingly upset with what they perceive as efforts to bias the jury and to indoctrinate prospective jurors in how to say the “magic words” –those being, “Yes, I can set my biases aside and be fair and impartial, your Honor”–even if they are as far from being fair and impartial as could be imagined. In particular, the defense wanted the crowds outside the courthouse to be moved further back. Ultimately, Judge Walmsley said he would take the matter under advisement, but I would not expect any real changes here.
Second, the defense attorneys had proposed a half-dozen or so additional questions they wanted to include in voir dire moving forward. These necessarily have to be offered by the defense, argued against by the prosecutors, and then the judge makes the final call. Judge Walmsley allowed a couple of new questions, but largely rejected the questions proposed as either being redundant to what was already being asked or on the grounds that the new questions were effectively asking the prospective jurors to pre-judge the case.
Two questions that were allowed were an expansion of the question asking about support of Black Lives Matter to also include support of various “I run with Ahmaud” type efforts, and an entirely new question asking if any prospective juror had an opinion about the time lapse between the shooting death of Arbery on February 23, 2020 and the arrest of the defendants in May 2020.
Key Findings of Today’s General Voir Dire
Of particular note from today’s general voir dire:
- Fully 65% of today’s prospective jurors had already formed or expressed an opinion as to the guilt or innocence of the accused! (That’s nearly triple yesterday’s proportion.)
- Fully 80% have had a close friend, relative, or themselves been arrested for a crime.
- More than a third (35%) had been victims of burglary or home invasion.
- Fully 75% conceded to having developed negative feelings, due to media coverage of the case, towards the defendants.
- Just over half (55%) believed that the criminal justice system and police generally did not treat people of color fairly or equally.
- On the expanded question of support for Black Lives Matter, that now also asks about support for “I Run With Ahmaud” type groups, just under half (45%) indicated that they had supported such groups and efforts to some degree.
- On the new question asking if they had an opinion about the delay in arresting the defendants, fully 80% indicated that they had formed an opinion on this matter.
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 Senior Assistant District Attorney Paul Camarillo (his first time at the podium) asking the substantive questions and Senior ADA Linda Dunikoski running through the witness list, 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 were essentially identical to his remarks from yesterday.
Here are Judge Walmsley’s four general voir dire questions to the prospective jurors, and their numbered responses:
Are any members of this panel related by blood or marriage to any defendant or to Ahmaud Arbery? No responses.
Have you formed or expressed an opinion as to the guilt or innocence of the accused. 469, 474, 475,481, 482, 485, 488, 479, 489, 495, 500, 498, 501 (13/20; 65%!)
Any prejudice on mind either for or against the accused? No one.
Ask in reverse, if your mind is not perfectly impartial between state and accused, please raise your hand. 481, 482, 485, 495, 500
At that point, he handed over general voir dire to the State, in the form of Senor ADA Paul Camarillo (his first time at the podium) and Senior ADA Linda Dunikoski.
Senior ADA Paul Camarillo & Senior ADA Linda Dunikoski
Senior ADA Camarillo took just about 40 minutes to work through roughly 80 questions, identical to those asked in previous general voir dire sessions, after which Senior ADA Dunikoski 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 you know any of us three prosecutors? No one.
Anybody not reside in Glynn county? No one.
Anyone under 18? No one.
Anyone ever been convicted of felony and not had rights restored? No one.
Anyone sat on grand jury that returned this indictment? No one.
Anyone currently works with law enforcement and is POST certified? 484
Anyone 70 or older and does not wish to serve on this jury? No one.
Full-t-time student, currently enrolled, attending classes? No one.
Full-time caretaker of child 6 or younger, no other means of care? 500, 510
Full-time caretaker of elderly or handicapped, no other means of care? No one.
Anyone who has difficulty understanding English language? No one.
Anyone who has difficulty hearing? No one.
Expect trial will last through November 19, anyone here who has non-work related conflict, like surgery planned, tickets to vacation preplanned? 495, 489
Anyone related by blood to current Brunswick DA Keith Higgins or any assistant DAs? No one. Know him? 495
Anyone realted by blood or marriage to former DA Jackie Johnson or her ADAs? No one. Know her? No one.
Anyon has opinion about last year DA election where Johnson defeated by Higgins? 495
Anyone have opinion why Cobb County prosecutors are on this case, by GA AG? 495
Anyone be unable to give state fair trial because we are from Cobb County? No one.
Related to Waycross DA George Barnhill? No one. Anybody know him? No one.
Know Barnhill Jr., former ADA, practicing law in Brunswick? No one.
Related by blood or marriage to Tom Durden, Atlantic DA? No one.
Know any of the defense attorneys, Sheffield, Rubin? No cards.
Laura and Frank Hough? No one.
Kevin Gough? No one.
Anyone know Ahmaud Arbery? 510, 467
Anyone know Ahmaud mother, Wanda Cooper Jones? 467
Know his father, Markus Arbery Sr, or brother Jr.? 485, 467, 498
Anybody know Judge Walmsley? No one.
Personally know any of the defendants? No one.
Anybody know Greg McMichael’s wife, Lee? 466
Anybody know Lindsey McMichael, sister of Travis. 466
Know Amy Eldrod? 482, 469
Ever served on jury to a verdict? 495, 481
Either of you the foreperson? No.
Did you arrive at a verdict? 495 yes, 481 no was dismissed
Related to anyone in law enforcement? 488
Close friends or family in law enforcement? 488, 484, 485
Ever worked in social work field? 479
Ever work in counseling, psychology, psychiatry, or have background in those fields? 496
Any work experience in legal field? 502, 495
Anyone work in criminal justice system, probation, counselor, prison system? 484
Anybody related to or close friend in any DA office anywhere? No one.
Any medical training past CPR? 488, 484, 510, 489
Related or close friend who is criminal defense attorney? No one.
Anyone personally know a lawyer in criminal justice field, defense or prosecutor? No one.
Anyone who has had notable bad experience with law enforcement? 498, 475
Anyone here have a good experience with law enforcement? 502, 501
Notable bad experience with prosecutor? No one.
Notable good experience with criminal defense attorney? No one.
Ever been accused, prosecuted, convicted of crime DUI or higher? 475, 489, 508
Close relative or friend ever arrested for a crime? 495, 466, 467, 469, 475, 482, 485, 479, 489, 495, 496, 498, 501, 502, 508, 510 (16/20) (80%)
You, close friend, relative ever falsely accused of a crime? 495
Ever been victim of violent crime against person? 498, 469, 479
Close friend or family victim of violent crime against person? 482, 479, 498,
Ever witnessed violent crime in progress? No one.
Ever take cell phone video of crime in progress? No one.
Have you or close friend family a victim of burglary or home invasion 475, 479, 482, 489, 495, 498, 501,
You or close friend or family ever had a firearm stolen from car or home? 482, 495, 496
Ever call 911 to report a crime? 488, 495, 498, 502,
Ever had to give a statement to law enforcement, beyond traffic? 488, 475, 479, 469, 495, 498
Anybody ever had to be a sworn witness at a trial? 484, 498, 469, 501,
Anybody ever taken upon yourself to investigate a crime, non-professional capacity? 495
Close friend or relative who has taken upon themselves to investigate a crime? 495
Do you recognize anyone in the room here today? 498, 474, 510,
When all met at Selden park last week Monday, recognize anyone? 466, 467, 474, 475, 481, 485, 484, 488, 495, 489, 496, 498, 500, 502, 501, 508,
Ask in reverse, anyone in here who does NOT own a firearm in household? 489, 495, 502, 498, 501, 510 (6/20)
Anybody here ever have to carry a gun for job? 484
Any firearms training other than work? 481, 488, 500
Anyone lived in Glynn County for less than 5 years? 484
Anyone live in Scitilla Shores neighborhood? No one. Previously? No one. Particularly familiar with that neighborhood? 475
Anyone live in Royal Oaks neighborhood? No one. Previously? No one. Particularly familiar with? 466
Anyone live in Fancy Bluff neighborhood? No one. Friends or family there? 485, 467, 498
Anybody know street Boykin Ridge? 488, 469,
Any religious, moral, ethical conviction prevent you from arriving at verdict? No one.
Private reason can’t make decision on this case? No one.
Anybody who does NOT belong to any religious, fraternal, social organization? 488, 484, 500, 475, 502,
Relative or close friend relative arrested, treated unfairly by justice system or police? 479, 467, 498,
You, relative, close friend arrested for kidnapping or false imprisonment? No one.
You, relative, close friend, arrested for shooting at someone? 508
You, relative, close friend arrested for murder? 485
Anybody feels unable to follow the law that the court gives you, even if you think the law may or should be different? No one.
Anybody WANT to serve on this jury? 479,
Ever served on a grand jury? 469
Anyone looked up any court documents on clerk’s website for this case, when you got summons, sent to web site, there were documents there. 481
Anyone served in military? No one.
Anyone here have prior LEO training or experience? 484,
At this point Senior ADA Linda Dunikoski took over for reading the witness list, and asking if anybody needed to raise their hands to earlier questions, retroactively:
474, hardship on a work-related business trip
484, business-related hardship this weekend through Wed of next week.
496, house closing on November 15
501, knows one of the possible witnesses’ father
502, arrested as minor, but expunged
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, Senior 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 15 minutes, asking about 20 questions identical to those he asked yesterday–including a brand new question that had been added following this morning’s pre-voir dire discussion in the courtroom.
Know Travis McMichael, “former Coast Guard”? No one.
Greg McMichael? No one.
Roddy Bryan? 482, don’t know him, but know wife or girlfriend, also 469
Based on what you’ve heard in media, tv, community, have you now a negative feeling about Travis McMichael? 467, 469, 474, 475, 481, 482, 485, 488, 489, 495, 500, 501, 508, 510 (14/20)
Same question, for Greg McMichael: 467, 469, 474, 475, 481, 482, 485, 488, 489, 495, 498, 500, 501, 508, 510 (15/20)
Same question for Roddy Bryan? 469, 474, 475, 481, 482, 485, 488, 489, 495, 498, 500, 508, 510 (13/20)
Bad feelings about criminal defense attorneys? No one.
Already answered firearms questions during state voir dire.
Ever voted for candidate because you liked their platform to limit guns? 479
Anyone opposed to laws that allow people to carry, openly or concealed, in public? 481, 488, 498, 501
Do you agree that a psychologist or psychiatrist can find mental illness in just about anybody? 466, 479, 481, 488, 496, 500, 501, 502
Anyone participated in any demonstrations or marches related to social justice movement, either before or after this shooting? 500
EXPANDED QUESTION: Anyone supported in any way the Black Lives Matter movement, financial, bumper sticker, yard sign, posting about it online, reposting, including all of the movements about justice for Ahmaud, or I run with ahmaud, could include “say his name: Ahmaud Arbery,” giving support for hate crime bill legislation? 467, 469, 479, 482, 488, 489, 498, 500, 510
Anyone feel they have ever been denied an opportunity because of ethnicity, background, or race? 485, 498, 501, 508
Indicate if you have ever been falsely accused of doing anything based on your ethnicity or race? 498
Do you agree that the old Georgia state flag, flown between 1956 and 2002, is a racist symbol? 479
Do you agree that people of color are not treated fairly in our criminal justice system? 467, 474, 475, 479, 485, 495, 498, 500, 501, 508, 502
Even more focused than criminal justice system, believe that police, generally, do not treat black and white folks equally? 467, 479, 485, 489, 495, 498, 500, 501, 502, 508, 475
Do any of you have any medical issues or any physical, visual, hearing, that would cause you to lose focus or concentration during the trial, absent a morning, lunch, afternoon break, that would impair your ability to stay focused on trial? 469, 498, 508
NEW QUESTION: If you have an opinion about the time that elapsed between the incident date, Feb. 23, and 2020, and the arrest date in May 2020, raise your hand. 466, 467, 469, 479, 481, 482, 485, 488, 489, 495, 496, 498, 500, 501, 508, 510
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.
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 these jury selection proceedings today.
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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Defense Anger at Jury Influencing, & New Defense Questions – Law of Self Defense is written byAttorney Andrew Brancafor lawofselfdefense.com