Jury selection in the case of Ahmaud Arbery, a Black man killed in February 2020 after being chased down by a father-son duo and their neighbor as he ran through their Brunswick, Georgia, neighborhood, is already underway and a critical mistake has already been made.
A Georgia county exposed potential jurors to evidence that has been banned from being admitted as evidence at trial.
Juror candidates who visited the Glynn County Superior Court website looking for information regarding jury information were able to access all the motions and rulings filed on the three suspects, Gregory and Travis McMichael and William “Roddie” Bryan, accused of murdering Arbery.
Such rulings included information about Arbery’s previous run-ins with the criminal justice system as well as records about him being treated for mental health disorders.
The defendants’ lawyers are seeking to have evidence that paints Arbery unfavorably admitted at trial as they try to make the case that they were making a citizen’s arrest of a mentally unstable criminal, not a runner innocently jogging through their neighborhood. By Wednesday
Evidence included details about Arbery’s 2018 mental health records from Gateway Behavior Services.
On Friday, Oct. 1, Judge William R. Walmsley ruled that Arbery’s “highly questionable” mental health report could not be used in the trial, stating, “There is no evidence that the victim was suffering from any mental health issue, or had otherwise decompensated, on February 23, 2020.”
Similarly, Walmsley has ruled that Arbery previous with the law have no bearing on the matter at hand in this trial.
By clicking on one of the three links labeled “State Of Georgia vs Gregory McMichael,” “State Of Georgia vs Travis McMichael,” or “State Of Georgia vs William ‘Roddie’ Bryan,” the outlet stated viewers were then directed to a page containing everything on the case since May 11, 2020 — the same date warrants were filed on the father-son duo.
By Wednesday, Oct. 20, Glynn County officials had removed the links from that jury information page.
“When you were called for jury duty, you were directed to a website,” lead prosecutor Linda Dunikoski told the jury panel on Wednesday. “Also listed on that website were some links to some of the filings in this case. It’s OK if you looked at it, because it was there, but we all need to know if you looked at it.”
Walmsley ordered the documents removed and at least three prospective jurors questioned this week told the court they have accessed the suppressed legal filings, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported.
Access to suppressed evidence could prove problematic because viewing of those documents could make individuals ineligible to be a part of the final jury, a process that has reportedly already gone slower than expected.
Furthermore, should those individuals actually get selected, it could trigger a mistrial, although legal experts told Vice that is less than likely to occur.
“You will still have to show that they actually accessed the information and that the defendants were prejudiced by it,” Melissa Redmon, the prosecutorial justice program director at the University of Georgia’s School of Law and a former Fulton County district attorney told the outlet.
“You have to have the juror say that ‘I accessed information. I read it, and I considered it in my deliberations.’”
At this stage of the process the court is assembling a pool of least 60 potential jurors that attorneys from the prosecution and defense can whittle down to final panel of 12 jurors and four alternates for the trial.