Already, on day three, I have a lot of questions about the way in which the Ahmaud Arbery case is being tried.
If my understanding is correct, no members of the public are allowed to attend the trial. Only people involved with the case are allowed in the courtroom. This means that the community is excluded from participation.
In addition, all the potential jurors are being questioned privately, that is outside the hearing of the other jurors. Defense attorneys did not want the public to have access to the juror answers to the questions when they were questioned individually. The judge made a “compromise” and allowed two journalists in the room to take “notes.”
These “notes” are obviously not comprehensive. The reporters are not taking down a transcript. The public is then only hearing information about jury selection that is filtered through reporters. As of today, these “notes” supposedly released to other reporters have consisted of a few quotes and some numbers.
To make matters worse, the reporters are being rotated in and out, so there is no prolonged observation. This may please the reporters since each of them can file stories as if they were in the room, but it does not serve the public interest since each reporter is only observing a tiny snippet of the questioning.
To me, this system is insane.
Glynn County, Georgia has chosen to hold the trial in a regular courtroom completely ignoring the interest in and the importance of this case. Then, because of social distancing, they are only allowing people involved in the case to attend. This means that the community is prevented from performing the oversight function it is meant to perform during a public trial. There is a reason trials are public, so the public can witness and monitor and alert the rest of the community when something is going wrong.
We do not have that in the trial of the men who hunted down and shot Ahmaud Arbery.
I also do not understand how jury selection can be carried out in secret. I can understand if a particular juror asks to speak in some completely private forum, but to allow all the jurors to be questioned in private, not seen and not heard by the rest of the community just seems wrong.
Jury selection is one of the most important parts of a trial and the community is being prevented from monitoring this phase of the trial.
In an interview on Court TV, one of the criminal defense attorneys said that he was always less concerned with what a particular juror said than he was with the facial expression and the body language of the juror answering. But, in this case, we have been denied access to that information entirely and we only have the answers given by the potential jurors through third, fourth and fifth parties.