1,000 Potential Jurors to Be Called in Federal Hate Crimes Trial of Ahmaud Arbery's Killers

U.S. District Court Judge Lisa Godbey Wood, the judge for the 2022 hate crimes trial of the three men convicted of killing Ahmaud Arbery, said Monday the court plans to issue around 1,000 jury duty summonses across Georgia's Southern District, the federal court system that covers about 43 Georgia counties.

At a pretrial hearing, Wood said she would grant the joint request for jurors to be called from a wider area because of the highly publicized nature of the previous trial.

"I think the reasons set forth on both sides are extremely valid," Wood said, adding: "It's a case that has received so much pretrial publicity."

Greg and Travis McMichael and their neighbor William Bryan are set to be sentenced Jan. 7 after being convicted last month by a Glynn County jury for murder and other charges in the February 2020 murder of Arbery. The only thing to be decided by the judge in the sentencing is whether the men will have the possibility of parole attached to their life sentences.

The upcoming federal trial will determine whether the men violated Arbery's civil rights by treating him as an assumed criminal, pursuing him and threatening and shooting him in public because he was Black.

Both the defense and prosecution requested the expanded pool to speed up the jury selection process, as the process for the first trial, jurors entirely from Glynn County, took over two weeks.

Many jurors were dismissed for having prior opinions coming into the murder trial, so Wood also agreed to allow a questionnaire to be sent to potential jurors about their familiarity with the case, and the attorneys will review them before jury selection begins.

The expanded area covers 43 of Georgia's 159 counties, with 1,000 jury duty notices and a questionnaire to be sent in the area that contains over 1.6 million residents.

Ahmaud Arbery Murder, Hate Crime Trial
This photo combo shows, from left, Travis McMichael, William "Roddie" Bryan and Gregory McMichael during their trial at the Glynn County Courthouse in Brunswick, Georgia. Jurors on Nov. 24, 2021, convicted the three white men charged in the death of Ahmaud Arbery, a Black man who was chased and fatally shot while running through their neighborhood in an attack that became part of the larger national reckoning on racial injustice. Pool via AP File

Savannah and Augusta are the largest cities in the Southern District of Georgia. Its farthest community from the courthouse is rural Wilkes County, more than 210 miles north of Brunswick.

Bryan recorded cellphone video of Travis McMichael blasting the 25-year-old Black man with a shotgun after Arbery spent several minutes running as the three men chased him in pickup trucks.

The judge said Monday she plans to keep the federal trial in Brunswick, noting the families of Arbery and the defendants live there, as do many of the witnesses being called to testify.

Typically in a federal trial, a jury would be pulled from Glynn County, which includes Brunswick, and six neighboring counties.

Arbery's father, Marcus Arbery Sr., told reporters outside the courthouse he's fine with a jury coming from a wider area of the state.

"It don't matter, because the evidence is overwhelming," he said.

The McMichaels armed themselves with guns and jumped in a pickup truck after they spotted Arbery running past their home on a Sunday afternoon last year. They later told police they suspected he was a burglar, though they did not see him committing any crimes.

Bryan joined the chase in his own truck, telling police he used the vehicle to force Arbery into a ditch and cut off his escape from the subdivision. He used his cellphone to record video of Travis McMichael shooting Arbery as he tried to run around the McMichaels' idling truck.

Travis McMichael testified he shot Arbery in self-defense after the running man attacked him and tried to grab his gun. Defense attorneys said the three men had reasonable grounds to suspect Arbery was a criminal and wanted only to detain him until police could arrive.

At the time of his death, Arbery had enrolled at a technical college and was preparing to study to become an electrician like his uncles.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Ahmaud Arbery Murder, Hate Crime Trial
The federal judge overseeing the hate crimes trial of the men convicted of murdering Ahmaud Arbery said Monday the pool of potential jurors will be about 1,000 people from across Georgia's Southern District, which covers 43 counties. Above, a demonstrator holds a sign at the Glynn County Courthouse as jury selection began in the first Arbery trial, on Oct. 18, 2021, in Brunswick, Georgia. Sean Rayford/Getty Images