Tag Archives: Jury

RACISM AND AHMAUD ARBERY.

I watched every minute of the trial of the men who killed Ahmaud Arbery. 

It was a weekday afternoon and the Medical Examiner took the stand.  I was tired, everybody seemed tired.  The Medical Examiner was not the most riveting witness.  He had retired and then decided he wanted to go back to work, so he came to Georgia and was hired as the Medical Examiner.  He was professional, soft spoken, and businesslike.

Like most people, probably, my mind was wandering.

Then, Bob Reuben, defense attorney for Travis McMichael asked the Medical Examiner (ME) if Ahmaud Arbery’s body had “long, dirty toenails.”  The ME said yes. 

What?  My head popped up.  Even my tired ears perked up.  What the devil was that about?

I was appalled.  What reason could Reuben have for asking such a question?  But, no more was made out of it.  I tweeted about it at the time.  What reason, I asked, other than just trying to make Ahmaud Arbery seem distasteful, could the defense have for asking this question?

I found out the answer on Monday. 

Laura Hogue, attorney for Greg McMichael, got up before the jury and blew every racist, fear mongering whistle imaginable.  Then, she commented that Ahmaud Arbery was wearing tennis shoes, without socks to “cover his long dirty toenails.”  Again, I was just appalled.  She drew out the words, speaking every one of them distinctly as if conveying meaning to the jury.  “…long……..dirty……toenails.”

This was no off-the-cuff remark.  It was intentional, prepared for by Reuben asking the question of the ME.  Hogue couldn’t have used in closing something that wasn’t entered into evidence. Reuben asked the question to get it in and Hogue followed up by using it in the closing.

Arbery’s parents were mortified.  The father left the courtroom and both parents commented on the courthouse steps about how disgusting it was for the defense to try to smear Ahmaud Arbery’s character.  I completely agree.

Lawyers on national television criticized the comment, but then defended Laura Hogue’s right to use it.  As one attorney commented, the defense attorney has the obligation to use whatever it takes to defend the client.  But, that is just bullshit.

It’s the kind of reasoning that allows lawyers to argue that they do not have any obligation to moral standards at all.  And, it is simply not true.  It’s the kind of argument that allows lawyers to sleep at night and be accepted at the Bar Association cocktail party.  It makes me furious.

No lawyer had the obligation to use racist hate mongering and smear tactics to defend their client. 

Hogue (female) has, of course, defended herself by saying that she was merely trying to demonstrate that Ahmaud Arbery was not a jogger.  I’ve got news for her.  Some people jog without socks.  And, even if you accept the no-socks defense as fair game, the “long, dirty toenails” was not.

Trust me, the same lawyers who will gin up racial hatred and dehumanizing stereotypes will also try to pick a fascist jury, arouse fascist sentiments and dehumanizing stereotypes to defend Nazis.  It’s only a matter of time.  And they will go on national television and defend themselves and their colleagues will defend them as well.

This behavior by the defense, and it does not only apply to Hogue (the female) was planned defense strategy. Reuben asked the ME the question to get the testimony on the record.  Hogue (the female) hit it out of the park.  All the defense attorneys in this case are part of the racist defense strategy utilized throughout the entire trial and they should all be condemned, shunned and disbarred.

Ahmaud Arbery Jury Selection: Notes on the podcast “The Breakdown” with Shaun King

Notes Podcast “The Breakdown”

  • “All of us have a right to be skeptical” about the trial of the men who killed Ahmaud Arbery.
  • The three men are on trial in huge part because of the pressure that was brought to bear on Georgia, the governor, the AG, the GBI and others to make sure that they were arrested and made these people accountable.
  • “They (the state) had no plan to do that until we put the pressure on them.”
  • King notes the appointment of an outside prosecutor (a Republican) “I believe we have an ally in the prosecution…”
  • Over 1000 potential jurors were called.
  • There are a lot of factors that strike black people from jury pools before they even get to the process of being questioned at the courthouse.
  • The jury pool is selected with software that is supposed to make the process more random.  Note: The public has no access to that software or ability to judge the reliability and validity of that software.
  • African Americans are so “heavily policed, so heavily prosecuted” in Brunswick that even when Ahmaud Arbery was murdered, the system treated Ahmaud Arbery like the criminal.
  • Note: You can see this overpolicing in the body cam video of the police officer who questioned Ahmaud Arbery (several years ago) when he was doing nothing but sitting in his car listening to music.  The officers then used the fact that Arbery felt he was being harassed (which he was), and got angry about it, as an excuse for escalating the situation.  The officer escalated the situation while repeating over and over again that he wasn’t trying to escalate the situation.  When this officer testified in pre-trial hearings, he wore full body gear, and tried to make it seem that Arbery had acted irrationally.  I would have reacted the same way, but police would have never questioned me if I were sitting in my car listening to music. 
  • If you are caught up in the criminal justice system you are not even in the jury pool.
  • Also, it is much more difficult for African  Americans to commit to being on juries.  They are less likely to be able to take time off work, weather the economic problems caused by being away from work and family responsibilities.
  • The attorneys want to select people who say they don’t have a strong opinion about the case.
  • “If you live in Brunswick and you don’t have a strong opinion about this case, it tells me a whole lot about you.”
  • Note: One of the first questions asked by Sheffield (lawyer for Travis McMichael) is whether the potential jurors have a “negative” opinion of either of the three. 
  • “It’s going to be difficult to find somebody black, or white with any social conscience, who isn’t gravely concerned about this case.” 
  • Note: Again, Sheffield, for the defense attorneys, asks the jurors if they have supported “in any way” the social justice movement.  This is an extraordinarily broad question.  It implies that “the social justice movement” is a unified, single movement.  It also covers so many different issues and movements.  This reinforces King’s point.  If jurors who have “in any way” supported social justice movements are stricken from the jury, who do we have left?
  • If the trial lawyers are only trying to find people who are ambivalent.  “I’m concerned.”
  • Who doesn’t have an opinion about this case?
  • All it takes is one juror to hold out to create a hung jury.
  • The defense if giving jurors the Citizen’s arrest argument to hang their hats on. 
  • Note: After all the pressure that was put on the state of Georgia after the video was released, Brian Kamp signed a law banning citizen’s arrests.
  • But, the Citizen’s arrest law was in effect when the three men hunted down Arbery and killed him in the street.
  • Even under the law, the three men were “chasing him through a neighborhood with their guns out until they exhausted Ahmaud and then they murdered him.”

Ahmaud Arbery: Jury Selection

Ahmaud Arbery Case: Day 2

Blog #6

Jury Selection

It was reported that the Court in Brunswick, Georgia was going to go into the night selecting jurors, but instead the court stopped jury selection around 6 PM. 

Today, jury selection continues with general questioning by the Prosecutor, Dunikoski.  Dunikoski and the other prosecutors on the team are not from Glynn County where Ahmaud Arbery was killed.  They are instead from Cobb County.  Dunikoski seemed concerned yesterday that jurors would hold prosecutors responsible for corruption cases in and around Atlanta.  The judge, however, did not see the benefit of introducing that subject into the jury questioning.

Dunikoski did, however today, ask the prospective jurors if they had any negative feelings or weren’t going to be able to be fair because the prosecution team was not from Glynn County.  No one raised their hands.

Jurors were asked:

  • If they were law enforcement personnel.
  • If they knew or were related to the present DA in Glynn County.
  • If they knew or were related to the former DA in Glynn County.
  • Note: The former DA was indicted for her handling of the Ahmaud Arbery case and it is widely believed that she lost reelection because of this.
  • Whether they knew any of the defendants (several did)
  • Whether they had served on a jury and whether that jury reached a verdict.
  • Whether they had had negative experiences with law enforcement (one did)
  • Whether they had had bad experiences with prosecutors (the same juror had)
  • Whether they had been arrested, or prosecuted for a crime (three had)
  • Whether they had a close friend or relative who had been arrested, prosecuted or convicted of a crime. (eight had)
  • Whether they had been a victim of a burglary or a home invasion (five had)
  • Whether they had given a statement to law enforcement (gone to the police department and given a statement) (four had)
  • Whether they owned a gun (11 did)
  • Whether they had carried a gun as part of their work (four)
  • Whether they had lived in Glynn County for less than five years.
  • The DA then went through a list of witnesses and asked if the potential jurors knew any of them. 

The jury pool was asked whether because of religious or moral reasons they could not pass judgement on another person.  Three raised their hands.

Five said they belonged to no organization, religious or other.

When asked if they had ever been arrested and treated unfairly, two jurors raised their hands.

Note: Juror 69 raised his hand in a number of these questions.