Category Archives: Ahmaud Arbery

Jury Selection: Ahmaud Arbery Case

Ahmaud Arbery Blog #5, Monday 18 October 2021

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.”

Ahmaud Arbery: Jury Selection

Blog #5

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 Arbery Trial: Vanity Plates and Jailhouse Conversations

Blog #4: Ahmaud Arbery: Updates

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.

Ahmaud Arbery Trial: Glynn County, Georgia

Ahmaud Arbery

Blog #3

Case of Police Violence

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.  

FOR ALMOST THREE MONTHS THERE WERE NO ARRESTS AFTER THE KILLING OF AHMAUD ARBERY IN GLYNN COUNTY, GEORGIA

Cars line up along Highway 17 in Glynn County, Georgia to protest the County handling of the shooting death of Ahmaud Arbery.

AHMAUD ARBERY

#2 PROSECUTORS

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.

Ahmaud Arbery

Blog #1 “What is he doing wrong?”

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.

“I just need to know what he was doing wrong.” 

the buzz of white privilege: ahmaud arbery

AHMAUD ARBERY

BLOG #3

On a Sunday afternoon, February 23, 2020, a retired police investigator, Greg McMichael, 64, sees a young black man, Ahmaud Arbery, 25, jogging down the street past McMichael’s house. As it has been described, McMichael goes on “high alert.”  He calls out to his son Travis McMichael who also lives in the neighborhood, grabs his 357 Magnum and runs to his white pick up truck.  Travis McMichael grabs a 12-gage shotgun and jumps into the driver’s seat. 

Arbery is jogging down the street with no cell phone, no weapon, wearing jogging clothes.

The two men, the McMichaels, later claimed that they were on high alert because they recognized the young man.  They (with amazing rapidity) formed a self-appointed posse to hunt the young man down.

Ahmaud Arbery was a jogger.  He had jogged in the Satilla Shores neighborhood before.  In fact, this was part of the reason the two men (joined by another) pursued him.  The McMichaels claimed that Arbery had been observed on video tape, entering a house in the area which was under construction.

The owner of the house under construction had set up the video equipment and had also viewed the tapes.  Nothing he saw on the tapes alarmed him.  There was a curious white couple who entered the house, a group of white young people who carted off  pieces of wood.  Arbery has also been filmed wandering around the house and leaving without disturbing anything.  The owner didn’t call 911.  He didn’t even notify the authorities.

But, evidently, there was a buzz in the neighborhood about trespassers.  I would be willing to bet my bottom dollar this buzz wasn’t about the white couple, or the white kids who stole from the site.  It was about a young black man daring to act like any number of other people fulfilling their curiosity about the new construction. 

This is the kind of “buzz” that leads to two white men arming themselves in a matter of minutes and hunting down a young black man on the street.  This is the kind of “buzz” that gins up hyper vigilance for men who see themselves as protectors of white privilege.  It makes them feel special, like heros, like warriors.  They love it.

And, they thought they were perfectly justified in arming themselves, jumping into a truck and pursuing another human being, cutting off his escape and murdering him in the street.

essential podasts: ahmaud arbery. “I just need to know what he was doing wrong.”

https://www.wabe.org/shows/buried-truths/

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 and his son, Greg and Travis McMichaels, jumping into their pick up truck and pursuing Arbery.  They shot Arbery in the street and killed him.

For nearly three months, the 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 total lack of action about the murder. 

Another man in the Satilla shores neighborhood phoned 911 about Arbery jogging.  After a few seconds, the caller said: “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.” 

Every citizen of this country needs to listen to the podcast about the murder of Ahmaud Arbery based on an investigation conducted by members of Emory University.

“I just need to know what he was doing wrong.” 

texas, georgia and the republicans: morning rundown

Texas:

  • The Republicans are turning a massive failure of infrastructure and privatization in Texas into a condemnation of renewable energy.  Even the Governor of the State is on national television spewing lies and disinformation. 
  • Gov. Greg Abbott, on Fox News, said that the problem was caused by renewable energy systems.
  • Officials were told in 2011 that they needed to winterize the Texas system.  But, the State of Texas didn’t make that winterization and other changes obligatory.  Because the grid is operated by private companies, allowed to make as much profit as they can, the State failed to winterize and now we are watching people lose their lives.
  • Message #1: Don’t elect people to run government that don’t believe in government.
  • Message #2: Capitalism is going to kill us.
  • Message #3: We are living in a failed state. 

Corporate Media

  • On MSNBC, Joe Scarborough is complaining about networks allowing Donald Trump to phone in and spout lies.  Morning Joe gave Donald Trump millions in free air time in 2015 and 2016.
  • Every morning, Trump was phoning in to Morning Joe and lying. 

Georgia: Glynn County Police Department

  • Ahmaud Arbery was killed in Glynn County, Georgia on the street, murdered by a former police investigator and his son.
  • Police made no arrests and allowed Arbery to lay on the ground while they released the man and his son.
  • The only reason the two men are in jail now is because a video of the killing was released to the press.
  • In 2020, the County Commission prevented the citizens of Glynn County from voting to abolish this police agency.
  • The agency has been fraught with controversy and illegal behavior.
  • The former chief of police was indicted, the Narcotics Unit was disbanded, officers killed a woman in her car and failed to remove an officer who had a history of assaultive behavior.  This officer went to the house of his ex-girlfriend and shot her, her new male friend and himself.
  • Now, the County is paying a consulting firm to tell them who to hire as Police Chief. In addition, they are hiring a former “mentor” of one of the council members to also tell them who to hire.
  • The County gave the consulting contract to a company that didn’t even have the words “community policing” in their proposal.  The proposal was the shortest of all those submitting, two pages.

Georgia: Voting Systems

  • The Republicans in the state legislature are on their way to pass some of the most restrictive voting rules in the country.
  • The new laws would prohibit the use of mail-in ballots for almost everybody.
  • Republicans depend on people not being able to vote.