Approximately 1,000 people were called for jury duty in the Ahmaud Arbery case in Brunswick, Georgia. Roughly 600 of them showed up on Monday when jury selection began.
During the first part of the day, the judge considered objections to juror questions. The judge increased the number of peremptory strikes of both the defense and the prosecution. In cases where there are multiple defendants, it is common for the judge to increase the number of peremptory strikes. One lawyer on Court TV, however, commented that he thought it was unusual for the judge to give the prosecution additional strikes.
Defense attorneys tried to exclude the press from juror questioning entirely, but the judge allowed two reporters in the courtroom to take “notes” on jury pool members’ answers to questions. This means that the only access the community has to the answers of potential jurors is filtered through a third party. Because only people involved in the case are allowed in the courtroom, members of the community have no independent source for this information. The reporters are not making a transcript, only making “notes.”
According to these “notes,” one juror who was retired military was dismissed from the jury pool. This man said that he had a negative view of Gregory McMichael, but not evidently of Travis McMichael. When asked why, he said that Greory McMichael seemed to him to be the “lead dog.” This potential juror also said that he got the impression that Gregory McMichael was “stalking” Arbery.
Another potential juror said that he had seen the video of the killing a number of times and that he was “sick of the video.” He also said that he had talked about the video with his brothers, one of whom was also called for jury duty. This same juror claimed not to care what happened in the case, but admitted that he had “said they were guilty.”
Jury selection in the trial of the men who killed Ahmaud Arbery is starting this morning. Speculation is that the process may take as much as three weeks. Over 1,000 people have been called for jury duty which is a much larger pool than is usual in most cases, even in high profile cases like this one. Attorneys have said that they have never heard of a case where this many potential jurors have been called. There is speculation that many of the people called will not show up – for legitimate reasons and because they don’t want to take part.
The potential jurors have been asked to fill out a questionnaire. It is not a long questionnaire especially not in comparison with other trials of this prominence. Some of the questions are: Have you seen the video of the shooting in Satilla Shores? How many times have you seen the video. Have you been to the neighborhood? Potential jurors will then be asked questions in the courtroom. Commentators are creating the impression that
Social media posting will be searched for the potential jurors. Strict rules about how they can access that information. They cannot sneak onto their social media, but it is generally accepted now that the lawyers are responsible for searching any information that is public. There will be people who have posted about this case, about the issues related to this case. A lawyer is saying that she was not going to convict another black man. She said that she was going to court and would not convict.
No matter how many times people are told, and how many times they see other defendants’ videos of jailhouse conversations (Casey Anthony), they assume privacy when they post on the internet and talk on the telephone. It is also difficult for people even if they know they are being taped, to remember this once they get into a conversation.
One of the issues that was raised in this case was the use of the jailhouse phone conversations of the defendants. As I previously posted, there are notifications literally beside the phones in jails and prisons informing people that their conversations will be recorded, but people still make those phone calls and conduct those conversations like it was 1950. The judge in this case, for that reason, turned down a defense motion to exclude all the jailhouse conversations of the defendants. They argued 14th amendment, they even argued for Gregory McMichaels, spousal confidentiality. But, the judge ruled, once you are informed that you are being recorded and you pick up that phone you make a decision to give up all those rights.
The host of Court TV today is again repeating the William “Roddie” Bryan. I have no idea why this middle name is repeated by almost every commentator on television and every print journalist.
Court TV is doing live coverage of the trial. There are also several interesting interviews with attorneys in the case posted on the site.
Notes: 600 of the called 1,000 potential jurors showed up on Monday 18 October 2021. The court interviewed 8 of them in individual voir dire. One juror was dismissed after stating that he had negative views of Gregory McMichael but evidently not Travis McMichael. The potential juror said that Gregory McMichael appeared to be the “lead dog.”
Updates on the trial of the men who killed Ahmaud Arbery.
The judge in the Ahmaud Arbery murder case has ruled that recordings made of jailhouse phone calls of the three white men who chased Arbery down and killed him in the street, will not be excluded in the trial. The defense had argued to exclude the calls. (Court TV, 10/13/21)
Depending on what is on the tapes, this could be a blow to the defense. But, the ruling is no surprise. There are signs all over the place in jails an prisons warning inmates that their conversations are being recorded. You would have to be a fool, or someone who thought that you were not subject to the rules or the law, to ignore the warnings and conduct incriminating conversations over the telephone.
Anyone who watches trials or court news will remember the revealing conversations between Kasey Anthony and her parents while she was incarcerated. Anthony did not admit her guilt, but her behavior was enough to raise serious questions about her stability and responsibility. But, as watchers of court news also know, she was found not guilty.
The Confederate Vanity Plate
Similarly, defense attorneys are trying to exclude a photograph of Travis McMichael’s truck that shows his confederate flag vanity plate. While prosecutors have reportedly said that they will not introduce evidence of racial motivation in their case in chief, they have said nothing about introducing such information in their rebuttal case.
A defense attorney interviewed by the Atlanta Journal Constitution has argued that the defendants are likely to testify since the task for defense attorneys has to be to make these men human and understandable. If one of the men claims that he had no racial bias or animus, this opens the door for the prosecution to introduce evidence that demonstrates racism (Atlanta Journal Constitution
The same defense attorney, commenting as an expert, argued that she thought the introduction of the vanity plate as evidence would be highly prejudicial to Travis McMichaels. I am not so sure. Growing up in Georgia, I would guess that jurors have seen these confederate symbols all their lives and know people who have displayed them. I am not sure that the presence of the symbol on McMichael’s truck will be that influential. I am not arguing that it should not be, just that I am not sure it will be.
Elie Mystal, of the Nation Magazine, is a national treasure.
He is like a breath of fresh air in the middle of the stale, phony, self-serving, power and celebrity worshiping hosts and commentators appearing regularly on corporate news.
One, just one of the reasons I love him is that he rolls his eyes on national television. Another reason I love him is that he tells the truth and talks like a regular person. He doesn’t use ten words with one will do, and he doesn’t surround every statement he makes with a boat load of qualifying phrases.
He rolls his eyes, he tells the truth, he doesn’t obfuscate because (unlike almost every other person appearing on corporate news) he is not afraid.
The right is not afraid of stealing Supreme Court seats, lying, cheating, rigging elections, subverting justice and a whole host of other things. The center, however, is a culture of people who are afraid. They are afraid to see the truth right in front of their faces, afraid to confront depressing and distressing facts, afraid of the very possibility of offending somebody, afraid of being inconvenienced, afraid of not perhaps, maybe not getting some job they haven’t even thought of yet.
I spent almost a decade out of the country. When I returned, I was astounded to hear a student tell me she couldn’t take an internship at World Wildlife (World Wildlife, not the Communist Party) because she might someday want to apply for a job with the State Department. This is who we have become. The right, the Republican party is fighting 24-hours-a-day to establish a Christo-fascist authoritarian government and those in the center are afraid of their shadows.
On Thursday, Nicolle Wallace, MSNBC, spent an entire segment of her program listening to people lionize the members of the January 6 Commission for considering, considering referring Steven Bannon to the Justice Department for criminal contempt. But, as Eli Mystal pointed out on CNN this morning, the whole process of the referrals to the Justice Department is nothing but theatre.
What every news program and every host should have been pointing out is that the Committee has (but is not using) the right of inherent contempt. Using this right, the Congress can jail people who don’t abide by subpoenas until they do abide. They don’t have to refer the matter to the Justice Department and wait for Biden’s (wimp noodle) hatchet man, Merrick Garland to act.
In addition, inherent contempt means that people like Bannon will be jailed and stay jailed until they provide the information that was subpoenaed. Going down the criminal contempt path and referring to the Justice Department, assuming Garland will prosecute (which he will not) and assuming a conviction, only punishes the offender for not cooperating. It does not secure the information needed.
So, the House Commission investigating the coup attempt should be shamed and criticized for not taking the path designed to get the information we need. Instead, they are heralded as heroes, patriots, courageous public servants. The Nicolle Wallace program last night became a virtual campaign ad for Benie Thompson and the other members. Not once, did Wallace or any of the members of the panel she assembled tell the American people that what the Commission was doing was a sleight of hand maneuver to look like they were doing something and not doing it.
Similarly, the Commission Biden appointed to study the Supreme Court expansion was “designed to fail.” As Mystal wrote in April when the commission was formed: “Biden’s choices confirm the worst fears court reformers had about the president: He doesn’t want a solution; he wants an excuse to do nothing.”
Quoting from Eli Mystal’s article IN APRIL:
“Instead of creating a commission of high-minded reformers or bare-knuckle politicos, Biden has created the quintessential government committee that is purposefully designed to accomplish nothing. The “Commission on the Supreme Court” isn’t even allowed to make policy recommendations on what to do about the Supreme Court. It is merely supposed to “study” the issue, which is like hiring a chef to draw pictures of food instead of cooking a meal. When Republicans take power, they don’t commission a book report on what they should do with the courts. They show up to Washington prepared to reshape the judiciary from day one. Biden showed up prepared to read a law review article.”
“Perhaps even more troubling, instead of balancing some of the center-left people on the commission with more, or any, outspoken advocates of court reform, Biden went the other way and put Federalist Society scholars and judges in there to drag the whole thing to the right. I cannot recall the last time a Republican president bothered even to consult a Democratic voice, never mind a genuinely left voice, on how to proceed with a matter related to the Supreme Court. But Democrats continue to act like they need a hall pass from Republicans before they take any action.”
Their inclusion—again, at the expense of some of the individuals who have been actively fighting these people and their conservative takeover of the courts—is insulting.
It’s also a giant waste of time. Donald Trump appointed 226 fire-breathing conservative judges to the federal bench in just four years; we are 20 months away from a midterm election during which Democrats might lose their tenuous grip on power; yet Biden’s committee on studying whether we should maybe, possibly try to fix the court will spend 180 days dickering with Federalist Society people about what Thomas Jefferson would do.”
This report did exactly what it was intended to do, provide cover for Biden who doesn’t have the stomach to expand the Supreme Court (or get rid of the filibuster for that matter). As Mystal pointed out, the commission itself was composed of people who make their living arguing before the Supreme Court. Appointing a commission like that is like appointing the sharks to supervise water safety.
In addition, the commission had nothing to say, nothing, about ethics and the Supreme Court. The Supreme court is the only judicial body in the country with absolutely no ethics regulations. There is no requirement for members of the Supreme Court to recuse themselves from cases in which they might have an interest. There is nothing to prevent the wife of a sitting Supreme court Justice to participate in a coup attempt to overthrow the government. Ethics complaints filed against Bret Kavanaugh were summarily buried after his appointment to the Supreme Court.
But, the Biden administration, so widely hailed on corporate news spins its wheels, claims the high ground and does nothing.
Gregory McMichael was an investigator for the DA’s office for more than 20 years and was a Glynn County police officer for seven years before that. He retired in May of 2019.
When Gregory McMichaels saw a young man jogging past his house, he called to his son. They immediately armed themselves, jumped in a pick up truck, and drove after Arbery. They cut him off in the street with their truck and the truck of a neighbor who (of couse) saw the chase and joined in. They shot and killed Arbery in the street.
Three men, saw a black man jogging past their houses, armed themselves and gave chase. Defense attorneys plan to argue that information Arbery was on probation should be admitted to the trial because that information explains why Arbery ran from the men.
First, Arbery was already running. He was jogging. He wasn’t in the beginning running FROM anybody. Second, the fact that he kept running and did not stop does not necessarily mean he was running FROM the three men. Third, Arbery had no obligation to stop running because someone ordered him to. Even if you concede that Arbery was running FROM the men at some point in the chase, what of it? I am a 71 year old white woman and I would have run from three white men (two of them armed) in pick up trucks who were driving after me and trying to cut me off when I was walking down a residential street. Third, none of these men could have known that Arbery was on probation, and even if they did, they had no right to stop him.
Greg McMichaels has agued that he thought Arbery was a man who had burglarized a house in the area that was under construction. But the owner of the house had access to all the video from the site. The owner did not phone the police or become concerned about anything he saw on the videos. So, who does Greg McMichaels think he is to try to hold a man even if he entered the house site? Second, there is video of various people walking in and out of the house site. Why is Arbery considered different from the other people (white) who entered the construction site? Third, McMichaels has provided no evidence to demonstrate why he thought Arbery was one of the people on the video tape who had entered the house.
It is obvious that Gregory McMichaels still considered himself active law enforcement, able to chase, stop and detain other people at will. And, also McMichaels also thought he was perfectly within his rights to arm himself and chase down another human being. None of the men saw Arbery commit any crime. They saw a black man in a predominately white neighborhood and assumed he had committed a crime. They armed themselves and hunted him down and killed him in the street.
A GBI investigator testified that Travis McMichaels used the N word in the conversation that occurred with the police officers who arrived on the scene of Arbery’s killing.
If you want a glimpse of what the legal system is already looking like under the reign of the Republicans and the Federalist Society, listen to this podcast where Chris Hedges interviews Steven Donziger “the human rights environmental justice attorney, about the grim reality when we confront the real centers of power.Donziger has been fighting polluting American oil companies for nearly three decades on behalf of indigenous communities and peasant farmers in Ecuador, and has been under house arrest in Manhattan for nearly two years. He went on trial in federal court in New York two weeks ago on contempt of court charges, which could see him jailed for six months, for appealing the demand to hand over his computer, cellphone, and other electronic devices to the court, a violation, he argues, of attorney-client privilege. No attorney without a criminal record in federal court has ever before been detained pretrial for a misdemeanor offense.”
People somehow believe that the authoritarian take over of the government will not affect them, that their lives will go on as usual. This is not the case. Increasingly, Republican ideologues are being appointed to the courts. They have no interest in law, reason, or justice. They have interest in power.
In this instance, the courts are persecuting an attorney for daring to confront the criminal behavior of a corporation. Federalist schooled Republican judges are using the criminal justice system to make sure that other attorneys realize that if they go after those in power, they risk their careers, their families and their livelihoods. This case is designed to send a message.
The date for the trial of the three men who hunted down Ahmaud Arbery and shot him in the street is October 18, 2021 in the Glynn County Courthouse, Brunswick, Georgia.
For almost three months after Arbery, 25, was shot and killed, there were no arrests, no charges brought and almost no local press coverage. But one of the men who joined the chase of Arbery as Arbery jogged through a Brunswick, Georgia neighborhood filmed the chase and the shooting. When the video went viral, media attention was attracted to the case. At that point, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI) took the investigation out of the hands of local officials. Charges were brought in days.
The local prosecutor in Brunswick, Georgia, Jackie Johnson, where the shooting occurred recused herself almost immediately. Gregory McMichaels, 64, had been a police investigator in her office. After making a decision to recuse herself, Johnson contacted another local prosecutor, George E. Barnhill, Sr., and asked him to advise the county police department about the case.
Barnhill then advised the Glynn County Police Department that the three men who armed themselves and pursued Ahmaud Arbery in a suburban neighborhood and then shot him in the street, appeared to have been acting in self-defense.
At much the same time as she was contacting Barnhill Sr. and asking him to consult with the Glynn County Police Department, Johnson, contacted the state Attorney General and requested a new prosecutor. The state Attorney General assigned the case to Barnhill Sr., the same Barnhill who had been asked by Johnson to give advice to the Glynn County Police Department. It is unclear whether Johnson recommended Barnhill to the state Attorney General. It seems likely that she did. It was later revealed that Johnson did not tell the state Attorney General that she had requested Barnhill, Sr. to give advice on prosecution to the Glynn County Police Department.
After Barnhill, Sr. was given the case, the family of Ahmaud Arbery found out that Barnhill Sr.’s son worked in Johnson’s office. They then objected to the elder Barnhill’s appointment. As far as can be determined, the family was not aware at the time that Johnson had asked and Barnhill,Sr. had already advised the Glynn County Police Department on prosecuting the case. They were, however, aware that Barnhill Sr.’s son, George F. Barnhill, not only worked as an attorney in the Brunswick DA’s office, but that the younger Barnhill had worked with Gregory McMichaels, on a case against Ahmaud Arbery years before.
After being notified by the family of their objections, Georgia Attorney General, Chris Carr took the Sr. Barnhill off the case and assigned the case to Tom Durden from the Atlantic Judicial Circuit in Hinesville. Durden announced plans in early May of (2020?) to ask a grand jury to consider criminal charges.
Carr later made a statement that the elder Barnhill never mentioned potential conflicts when he was initially asked to take over the case, nor did Barnhill Sr. mention that he had already offered the Glynn County police department an “initial opinion.” This opinion was that the three men had most likely acted in self defense, i.e., that they should not be prosecuted.
The case was later transferred to the DA in Cobb County, Georgia. It is unclear why Durden was taken off the case.
The Atlanta Journal Constitution reported in June of 2021 that a grand jury had been convened to investigate the actions of DA Jackie Johnson in the Ahmaud Arbery case.
On a Sunday afternoon, February 23, 2020, Ahmaud Arbery jogged through a neighborhood in Glynn County, Georgia. He had jogged in the neighborhood before.
But this jog ended with a retired police investigator, Greg McMichaels, and his son Travis, arming themselves and jumping into their pickup truck to pursue Arbery. Travis McMichaels shot Arbery in the street and killed him.
For nearly three months, police, prosecutors, and press DID NOTHING. Only when a video of the killing surfaced on social media was national attention focused on the case and the inaction of the local authorities.
Another man in the Satilla Shores neighborhood where the killing took place, phoned 911 about Arbery jogging. After a few seconds, the caller said, obviously excited: “He’s running now” referring to Arbery. The 911 operator asked: “What is he doing?” Then, she asked: “I just need to know what he was doing wrong.”
That is the question we are all left with. Your answer to that question says as much about you as it does about the people involved.
Every citizen needs to listen to “Buried Truths,” the podcast about the murder of Ahmaud Arbery based on an investigation conducted by members of Emory University.
A House Select committee is now conducting an investigation of the Jan. 6 coup attempt. The committee set Thursday as the deadline for Steve Bannon to produce information about the coup attempt and the next Thursday, October 14, for him to appear for a deposition.
It should come as a surprise to no one, that Bannon has refused to comply.
So, with characteristic haste to make justice roll down like a limp rag, the committee has said that they “could soon advance a referral to hold…Steve Bannon in contempt of Congress” (CNBC).
The committee, in a statement said it, “welcomes good-faith engagement” and ”will swiftly consider advancing a criminal contempt of Congress referral.”
Good faith hasn’t raised it’s head to be welcomed and the Committee should have had the referral ready at 12:01 AM Friday.
But, this is yet another example of Democratic performance art. They have established yet another committee hoping to convince the American people that they are serious about holding elite criminals accountable. They are not.
Bannon produced no material, and he will not show up on Thursday to give a deposition. He will ignore the committee because he can ignore the committee and nothing at all will happen to him.
Those who are maintain that Congressional subpoenas mean something now or used to mean something in the past are ill informed.
I would refer anyone who is interested in this issue to read the articles about the 2008 Senate judiciary committee contempt citation for Karl Rove. Rove ignored the committee, they cited him for contempt and that was the end of it. Rove has been free to act out his criminal and authoritarian tendencies since.
Those interested in just one example of what happens when elite criminals like Rove are given a free pass, and when those in government are left to use the legal system for their own political ends, should read about Karl Rove’s subsequent behavior. Rove and his cronies destroyed the career and almost the life of Don Siegelman. I would also add that Karl Rove is a regular guest on Fox News.
The select committee plans to deliver a definitive report. We will be waiting with bated breath.