Tag Archives: police violence

Jury Selection in the Trial of the Men who Killed Ahmaud Arbery: Grinding My Teeth

Travis McMichael holding his gun after he has shot Ahmaud Arbery. Arbery is stumbling toward his death. First responders didn’t even initially check to see if he was alive

I’ve spent a week and a half grumbling and grinding my teeth about the jury selection in the Ahmaud Arbery case.

Defense attorneys in this case wanted to shield the questioning of the jurors from the public entirely.  The judge, in what is called a “compromise” ruling, allowed two reporters at the time to listen in on individual questioning of potential jurors and take “notes.”  There is no transcript that is released to the public and as far as I know the general public is not allowed to sit in the courtroom and listen. *

Jurors are being called in 20 at the time.  First they are asked general questions by the Judge, the state prosecutor and each of the three defense teams.  Then, jurors are moved to another room and individual jurors are questioned out of hearing of the other jurors.

It is this last part of jury selection that the judge decided to shield from the public and only allow reporters (two at the time) to sit in and listen to.

These reporters supposedly release their notes not to the general public, but to other journalists.  So, what we the public have been left with every day are a few quotes from the potential jurors and some demographic information, that a couple of reporters think are important.

This is completely unhelpful for those of us in the public who feel we have a Constitutional right to observe pubic trials, especially ones this important and controversial.

As Shaun King notes in  “The Breakdown” podcast, (10/18/21) there are a lot of reasons to worry about the jury selection process, especially in a state like Georgia in a rural area like Glynn County.

As King notes, blacks are eliminated from the jury pool before we ever get to a trial.  For various reasons (such as involvement with the criminal justice system) many are not included on voter roles at all and therefore don’t appear on the lists of people who can serve as potential jurors.

Compound this with the questions defense attorneys are being allowed to ask potential jurors (Do you support the Black Lives Movement in any way?) and anyone with a brain would be concerned with black jurors (or even white jurors who have a social justice consciousness) who will make it onto the jury.

The questions about supporting (in any way) the Black Lives Movement, or what defense attorneys are calling the “social justice movement” have been allowed by the judge, again in what is being called a “compromise.”  Jurors are not being asked if they voted for Trump or support Trump “in any way.” 

And, remember these are questions that are being asked in the general questioning.  We know about them.  We do no know the questions nor the answers being allowed in the individual juror questioning.

Trials are public for a reason.  Democracy works when the public can oversee the workings of government and the court system.  We aren’t supposed to have secret trials in this country, but if jury selection can be conducted in secret, jury selection one of the most important parts of any trial, then the public can’t perform an oversight function.

In fact, the jurors in this trial are being treated as if they are flowers that might wilt and die at any moment.  The media keeps talking about preserving their “anonymity.”  We aren’t supposed to have anonymous jurors.

In the little town where I grew up, people were called for jury duty and were questioned.  They answered supposedly as truthfully as they could.  If they were embarrassed about their answers, they were embarrassed and needed to do some thinking about why they were embarrassed.  Other members of the community were allowed to think badly about them for their answers.  Members of the community had a right not to shop at their stores, or hire them for jobs depending on their answers.  This is what it is like to participate in a community.  If people are that embarrassed about their views then they damn well better think about asking themselves why. 

People, citizens in a democratic society should be willing to stand up and say what they believe and take the consequences.  That is what being a member of the community is about.  We are a community, not a collection of secretive, units, obsessed with keeping our opinions and attitudes hidden from others.  This is absurd.

But, the officials running this trial seem to think that jurors are fragile flowers who must be protected from giving an “unpopular” (not to say unjust) verdict.  Defense attorneys have moved to have the few people outside the court every day removed across the street in a “First Amendment Free” zone.  Folks, give me a break here, the United States is a “First Amendment Free” zone, not some parking lot designated as such by the Glynn County Sheriff’s office.

(Don’t get me started on Glynn County.)

To add to the problems caused by almost completely excluding the public from the jury questioning, for the past two days, the microphones in the court room have been turned down so low that even most of the general questioning cannot be understood.  For the past two days of jury selection when the judge or the attorneys turn their heads a fraction of an inch to the left or right, or look down, there is unintelligible sound.  No phone calls to the Clerk of the Court have been returned.

It might be useful to remember here that these three men are being tried by a county system that tried to cover up the killing of Ahmaud Arbery.  A Glynn County police officer went to Mr. Arbery’s home and told his mother that he had been killed in the process of a burglary (in the middle of the afternoon).  There were no arrests for two months after the killing and those only occurred because one of the perpetrators was stupid enough to think that releasing the video of the killing would help him.  The GBI only took the case away from the County after this video went viral and the state of Georgia looked so racist and corrupt that they were shamed into taking the case away from Glynn County.

A few other facts you might want to remember when considering that Glynn County is trying these men:

  • The County DA in charge when the killing took place was such a close friend of one of the men (Gregory McMichaels) that he phoned her at the scene and told her (on a first name basis) that he needed advice.
  • The Glynn County Police Department did not make any arrests at the scene.
  • First responders (from the GlynnCounty Police) did not even offer assistance or try to see if Arbery was still alive when they first arrived.
  • Officers repeatedly reassured the assailants that everything was alright and that they (the officers) could “only imagine” the terrible situation the men had faced.
  • The DA (jackie Johnson, for whom Greg McMichaels had worked) recused herself and immediately phoned another DA and had him offer an opinion about the shooting to the police.
  • This DA (George Barnhill, Sr.) told the Glynn County police that no arrests were necessary since the men had acted in self defense.
  • Then when the case was taken over by the GBI, Barnhill, Sr. was given the case.  Johnson did not tell the state attorney (who appointed Barnhill) that she had talked to Barnhill or that he had issued a letter absolving the men of responsibility.
  • Johnson has denied recommending Barnhill, Sr. to the office of the State Attorney.
  • Evidently when Barnhill, Sr. took the case, he also did not tell the state attorney that he had issued the letter.
  • The Glynn County Police Department has a history of corruption and brutality.
  • Their Drugs Unit was disbanded, the police chief was removed and indicted.  They also killed a young woman in a hail of bullets because she did not immediately stop her car when they ordered her to do so.
  • The Glynn County Police continued to employ a man who was actively stalking a former partner and bragging about it to other officers.
  • This officer went to the former partner’s home, murdered her and her friend and then killed himself.
  • This is just what I know and I don’t keep close track of the goings on in Glynn County.
  • A new police chief has just been hired by the Glynn County Police who lied on his application for the job. 
  • Members of the Glynn County Commission (voted out of office recently) prevented the citizens of Glynn County from even having the opportunity to vote on whether to disband the Glynn County Police.
  • One of the Commissioners who was central in preventing this vote from taking place was quoted in the media as saying “That’s not how it works.”
  • No, that’s not how it works. Citizens of Glynn County aren’t allowed to control their own police department.

The trial of the men who killed Ahmaud Arbery hasn’t even started yet and I am furious, incensed, disgusted by the way in which the trial is being handled by the Judge, Glynn County and the media.

*Phone calls to the Glynn County Clerk of the Court to complain about the microphone levels have not been returned.

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.”