More than 600 possible jurors are expected to show up Monday morning to a south Georgia courthouse as the murder trial of three white men accused of gunning down a black man begins. In this May 17, 2020, photo, a recently painted mural of Ahmaud Arbery is on display in Brunswick, Ga., where the 25-year-old man was shot and killed in February. It was painted by Miami artist Marvin Weeks. (AP Photo/Sarah Blake Morgan) Sarah Blake/AP

600 potential jurors to show up for Ahmaud Arbery trial

Barnini Chakraborty October 18, 07:00 AM October 18, 07:00 AM

More than 600 possible jurors are expected to show up Monday morning to a south Georgia courthouse as the murder trial of three white men accused of gunning down a black man begins.

Father and son Greg and Travis McMichael armed themselves and pursued Ahmaud Arbery, a black 25-year-old man jogging through their neighborhood on Feb. 23, 2020. They chased and cornered Arbery before opening fire. Also standing trial is William “Roddie” Bryan, a neighbor who joined in and took a cellphone video of Travis McMichael fatally shooting Arbery at close range with a shotgun.

The men are charged with nine counts each, including malice murder, felony murder, and aggravated assault.

THREE MEN INDICTED ON MURDER CHARGES IN SHOOTING DEATH OF AHMAUD ARBERY

They told police that they used pickup trucks to keep Arbery from fleeing their Satilla Shores neighborhood. They said they thought Arbery was stealing and that security cameras in an open-framed house under construction had previously caught him on tape.

The shooting incident and the alleged cover-up dominated national headlines and led to a racial reckoning near the port city of Brunswick, Georgia.

For many, Monday’s trial isn’t just about a shooting. Instead, it’s a hard look at a justice system that allowed the defendants, who were close with law enforcement, to remain free for nearly a month after they killed Arbery. An investigation was only launched after footage of the incident was leaked and the Georgia Bureau of Investigation stepped in.

“It’s shaken the faith of the black and brown community in their ability to trust the justice system,” Rev. John Perry, who was the president of the Brunswick NAACP chapter when Arbery was killed, told the Associated Press.

THREE MEN CHARGED WITH FEDERAL HATE CRIMES IN CONNECTION TO DEATH OF AHMAUD ARBERY

Arbery’s death became part of a broader national movement that looked at the U.S. criminal justice system following a string of fatal encounters between police officers and minorities that included the deaths of Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, and Rayshard Brooks.

Prosecutors say Arbery was out for a run about 2 miles from his home when he was stopped by the McMichaels. Investigators said Arbery was unarmed and that police found no evidence he had stolen anything.

Defense attorneys for all three men insist they were within their legal rights to pursue Arbery, who they thought was a burglar. At the time, Georgia law allowed arrests by private citizens. Travis McMichael’s lawyer said he shot Arbery in self-defense after Arbery attacked him and tried to take his gun.

At a pretrial hearing, GBI agent Richard Dial testified that he thought Arbery ran until he couldn’t run anymore and that he had turned on McMichael in self-defense instead of turning his back on a man with a shotgun. He also testified that Bryan told agents that McMichael uttered racial slurs while standing over Arbery’s bloody body. McMichael’s lawyers have rejected the claims and said Bryan made them up.

Investigators also found text messages on McMichael’s cellphone in which he used the N-word. Prosecutors included the texts in evidence filed in the public court record but haven’t requested to use them during the trial.

Defense attorneys have asked the judge to block prosecutors from showing the jury pictures of the truck the McMichaels used to chase Arbery, which has a vanity plate of Georgia’s former state flag with the Confederate battle emblem.

Arbery’s family said he was targeted because he was black, and the family’s attorney, Lee Merritt, has said that “race will be all over this case.”

“The nation is going to get a front row into where culturally Glynn County, Georgia, is in 2021 — or where it was in 2020 at the very least,” he said.

At the time of Arbery’s death, Georgia was one of four states in the country that did not have a hate crimes law.

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The Department of Justice filed federal hate crime charges against Bryan and the McMichaels in April. That trial is scheduled for February.

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