If I were to tell you that once upon a time in America, three white men were accused of hopping in pickup trucks, chasing a Black man around their neighborhood and essentially lynching him and that a nearly all-white jury would be presiding over the mens’ murder case, around what year would you guess this had happened in? 1950? 1964? Sometime during the Reconstruction era?
How about the end of 2021?
It took two and a half weeks for a jury to be selected in the murder case of Greg and Travis McMichael and William “Roddie” Bryan Jr.—the three men accused of murdering Ahmaud Arbery—and somehow, after that unusually long process that involved multiple eliminations rounds like it was the justice system version of The Bachelor, 11 white people and just one Black person ended up on the panel in a Georgia county where more than a quarter of the population is Black.
So, maybe there just weren’t many Black jurors in the pool, right? Well, according to the New York Times, “Linda Dunikoski, a special prosecutor from the Cobb County District Attorney’s Office, tried on Wednesday to challenge the defense attorneys’ removal of eight Black potential jurors, citing a U.S. Supreme Court ruling that makes it unconstitutional to strike people from a jury solely because of their race.”
It’s unclear if the eight dismissed Black jurors were the only ones in the pool besides the one who was ultimately selected—because that would be strange considering the fact that some 600 potential jurors were ordered to appear for the selection process in a county that is, again, 26.6 percent Black, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
Either way, Glynn County Superior Court Judge Timothy R. Walmsley—who, thus far, has been pretty even-handed and has denied the defense’s multiple attempts at putting Arbery on trial for his own murder—appears to believe the selection process that ended in a virtually melanin-less jury was a fair one.
Walmsley acknowledged that “quite a few African American jurors were excused through peremptory strikes executed by the defense,” but he insisted that it “doesn’t mean that the court has the authority to reseat, simply, again, because there’s this prima facie case,” and that the defense provided a “legitimate, nondiscriminatory, clear, reasonably specific and related reason” for why each Black juror shouldn’t be seated.
Mind you, if you’ve been following the lengthy jury selection process, you might be skeptical of the idea that zero bias went into it considering the fact that earlier in the process, two out of eight jurors who had advanced to the next phase admitted they knew the defendants personally. In contrast, one potential juror who said she knew Arbery’s father was immediately dismissed.
Listen: It’s understandable that in a community of only 85,000 residents, it might be difficult to find an impartial jury for a high-profile case that eventually made it into the national news cycle and one where there was video footage of Arbery’s killing for the public to view. Still, how is it that after this long, drawn-out process, the court was still only able to come up with a jury that looks like the pre-Eddie Murphy cast of Saturday Night Live? Are we to believe that nearly all the Glynn County residents who have formed no opinion on the biggest story to hit their town in recent history just happened to be white?
Also, it should be noted that not every case high-profile case that everyone knows about has had a jury selection process that took the better part of three weeks to complete. You may have heard about a young white man by the name of Kyle Rittenhouse who is on trial for murder after killing two people and injuring a third with an assault-style rifle he wasn’t legally allowed to carry.
Seriously, what year is it again?