On Nov. 3, the final jury for the killing of Ahmaud Arbery was selected. According to the Associated Press, it consisted of 11 white jurors and only one Black juror, sparking debate around the idea that Black jurors were intentionally not selected to ensure a white majority on a racially motivated crime.
According to the Associated Press, Superior Court Judge Timothy Walmsley, the judge conducting the trial for the killing of Ahamud Arbery, said, “This court has found there appears to be intentional discrimination in the panel.”
Walmsley was not able to reappoint the previously dismissed Black jurors since the defense was able to provide reasons other than race for why they were cut.
In an interview with the Associated Press, Laura Hogue, an attorney for defendant Greg McMichael, said, “I can give you a race-neutral reason for any one of these.”
According to widely reported details, in February 2020, Arbery, a young Black man, was jogging in a Georgia neighborhood when three white men spotted him and pursued him with a pick-up truck and a shotgun. One of the defendants, Travis McMichael, shot Arbery in the back three times. William Bryan, neighbor and defendant, recorded the killing on his cell phone once he had joined the other two men with his truck.
Many, including prosecutors on the case, emphasized the importance of a diverse jury, especially in a crime of this nature and circumstance.
“A diverse jury, one that is representative of the demographics of an area, is important. I would say it is particularly important in the South, where we have a more obvious history of racism in the operation of the criminal justice system,” said Dr. Patrick Morris, a professor in the department of government. “A white or predominately white jury could easily be perceived as more evidence to support a racist criminal justice system.”
However, some experts say that a diverse jury is not the ultimate test of fairness.
“It is important to have a diverse jury demographically, but diversity in itself does not necessarily result in fairness and justice,” said Dr. Rose, a professor in the department of government. “One can face a diverse jury that issues an unfair decision and another jury that is not diverse could issue a fair decision.”
Others expressed concern for the idea that jurors might have been dismissed due to their race.
“Well, I would sure hope that’s not the case. Given our society’s standing on racial matters, this would be a shock if it were a reason for dismissal,” said junior Chris Bocola. “Perpetuating the idea that only white individuals, as it pertains to the case, have the best viewpoint on a racially motivated crime is illogical.”
According to the Associated Press, “When questioning potential jurors, prosecutor Linda Dunikoski often told them that the ideal juror would be a ‘blank slate,’ which is probably impossible since Georgia law allows someone to serve on a jury even if they come to court with an opinion on the case, as long as that person expresses a willingness to keep an open mind.”
Many crimes, such as this one, are often seen through cell phone footage by civilians. As a result, candidates that are picked for jury selection have sometimes already heard some information about the case.
“Blank slate jurors are an impossibility in this age of social media, and highly unlikely in high profile cases,” said Rose.
However, with these types of cases, some feel that education can be both positive and preventative.
“I think we have made progress, but we must keep pushing forward,” said Morris. “We’ve enacted hate crime legislation and enhanced punishments for those crime, but it is also important to continue to educate people, particularly young people, about the benefits of living in our very diverse country and treating all people with fairness and equality.”