Oct. 23-After four days of intense questioning had produced only 23 qualified prospective jurors by Thursday, Eastern Judicial Circuit Judge Timothy Walmsley postponed jury selection proceedings until Monday in the trial of three White men accused of murder in the February 2020 killing of a 25-year-old Black man.
Walmsley cited a personal obligation for a participating attorney in announcing that jury selection was recessed for Friday.
Defendants Travis McMichael, 35, Gregory McMichael, 65, and 52-year-old William "Roddie" Bryan face felony murder, aggravated assault and criminal false imprisonment charges in the shooting death of the unarmed Ahmaud Arbery on Feb. 23, 2020, on a public street in the Satilla Shores neighborhood.
Jury selection will resume at 8:30 a.m. Monday at the Glynn County Courthouse.
By Thursday, just three panels of 20 prospective jurors each had been fully processed by the jury selection questioning procedure, which began Monday, Oct. 18. Of those, defense and prosecuting attorneys had qualified 23 as potential jurors in the highly-publicized and racially-charged trial that has put a national spotlight on this community of 85,000.
The process needs to produce about 64 prospective jurors, from which defense and prosecuting attorneys will use their allotted strikes to whittle it down to a jury of 12 Glynn County residents, plus four alternates.
In order to increase the chances of empaneling a jury to hear the trial locally, the Glynn County Court Clerk emailed jury summonses for the trial to 1,000 residents. Nearly 600 of those responded to a summons to report Monday to the nearby Selden Park gymnasium, chosen as an initial staging area because its large space accommodates COVID-19 social distancing requirements.
Of those, 283 prospective jurors were seated and then dispersed into panels of 20 each with the first reporting to the courthouse's second-floor jury assembly room Monday afternoon. The intent was to process the first panel of 20 Monday afternoon and process two daily through the week.
But the first group had not been fully processed by the end of proceedings Monday, and the judge chose to move to the next scheduled panel Tuesday morning. Tuesday afternoon's panel was dismissed and attorneys spent the rest of the day qualifying eight prospective jurors from the morning panel.
Seven more prospective jurors were qualified from a single panel of 20 on Wednesday and eight were produced from a single panel Thursday, with proceedings stretching into the late evening hours both days.
The clerk of court noted before jury selection began that the process could take up to 2 1/2 weeks.
At least that, Walmsley opined at the end of proceedings Thursday.
"It could get into next week," Walmsley said to the eight newly qualified Thursday night. "Possibly into the week after."
The remaining 400 of those who received jury summonses in the mail could be called to report to Selden Park to begin the process anew if a sufficient number of prospective jurors is not attained.