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Mistake Of Leaked Evidence Could Lead To Mistrial In Ahmaud Arbery Case

Photo: Michael Scott Milner / Shutterstock
Marcus Arbery, Sr carrying portrait of son, Ahmaud

A mistake made by the Georgia County court could have a catastrophic impact on the Ahmaud Arbery trial in which jury selection is currently underway

The three men on trial for the muder of Ahmaud Abery, Travis and Gregory McMichael and William “Roddie” Bryan, are facing nine criminal charges each. 

The charges include felony murder and false imprisonment for the death of Arbery as he jogged in his neighborhood in Brunswick, Georgia, on Februrary 23, 2020.

Could there be a mistrial in the Ahmaud Arbery case?

The court has mistakenly exposed potential jurors to suppressed evidence from the case, including Arbery’s mental health history and prior criminal history.

Both documents were banned by a judge from the trial and were never meant to be brought up in court.

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The suppressed evidence exists on the court’s website meaning any potential jury candidate who visits the Glynn County Superior Court website just seeking information on what time and day they need to show up for jury duty can easily view all of the motions filed so far within the trial.

The evidence on the website also includes how many times the defendants, Travis and Gregory McMichael used their firearms, and the Confederate flag vanity plate on the back of Travis McMichael’s truck.

If a jury candidate were to read any of the suppressed information, they would be disqualified from sitting on the jury

If the person was still contacted and chosen to be on the jury, that would be grounds for a mistrial.

Jury selection in trial for Ahmaud Arbery's murder has already been challenging.

The looming threat of a mistrial and potential jury candidates having to be disqualified comes is added yet more difficulties to the jury selection process for the murder trial.

Jury duty notices were mailed to 1,000 people in coastal Glynn County, which is more than usually asked.

The huge pool is needed because of the widespread news coverage of Arbery’s death, and the social media outrage that resulted in almost-daily protests, as the court is trying to find an impartial jury that doesn’t already have a bias towards the case.

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The judge on the case expressed frustration over the slow pace of jury selection, with many people being dismissed because of ties with the Arbery family, or briefly encountering the defendants.

Ahmaud Arbery was shot dead in 2020.

Arbery was jogging on the street near his home when the McMichaels grabbed guns and started chasing him in a pickup truck, later claiming that they thought he was a burglar and were going to conduct a “citizen’s arrest.”

Travis McMichael had approached Arbery, confronting him before the two men got into a scuffle over the shotgun.

Travis then fired three shots, hitting Arbery in the chest with two of the shots and killing him in what he claims was self-defense, although there is no evidence that Arbery was armed or had committed any crime.

William Bryan had joined in on the pursuit in his own truck, filming Travis fatally shooting Arbery on his cellphone.

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Arbery’s death was only investigated after the cellphone video of his murder surfaced online, immediately going viral and causing the Georgia Federal Bureau of Investigation to get involved.

The shooting as well as the cover-up made headlines everywhere and sparked the civil unrest that happened during the early summer months of 2020, along with the deaths of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor.

A judge had ruled in the defense of not including Arbery’s mental health records as evidence in the trial because of his right to medical privacy. It was also decided to not include his prior run-ins with police as the trial was supposed to focus on his killers, not him. His killers were also not familiar with Arbery's past when he was shot.

The possibility of a jury candidate reading the suppressed evidence and failing to inform lawyers of their knowledge of dismissed evidence is supposedly slim.

If not, a mistrial could potentially lead to the three men walking and not being convicted, which would end up being another case of a Black man being killed without any justice.

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Nia Tipton is a writer living in Brooklyn. She covers pop culture, social justice issues, and trending topics. Follow her on Instagram.