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Jury Selection in Arbery Case

Pate, Johnson & Church has been representing clients facing serious criminal charges in state and federal court for over 25 years. Attorney Page Pate often serves as a legal analyst to various media outlets that contact him to discuss significant cases being reported on.

In this case, CBS46 Atlanta contacted Page to discuss jury selection in Glynn County, Georgia for the trial of the men accused of the murder of Ahmaud Arbery in Brunswick, Georgia in 2020.

Page is first asked about the legal decision made to not request that the case be moved to another jurisdiction for trial, and whether or not it will be challenging to find a fair and impartial jury in the community that Mr. Arbery and the defendants lived in. Page says that based on what he has seen so far, “it’s going to be pretty difficult.” He further explains that “…in Glynn County, the Clark’s office has sent summons out to 1,000 different people. They had 600 people show up in different groups today and they’re questioning them 20 people at a time, number one, to see if they can find people who still do not have an opinion about the case. I think the defense would like to stay in Glynn County if at all possible because their clients have ties here, people know them. And ultimately, the judge is not looking for someone who’s never heard of the case because if you try to do that here, really anywhere, it’s gonna be hard to find. What the judge is looking for are people who have not made up their mind. And I think with that many jury summons going out, we’re gonna be able to pick an unbiased jury for this case.”

Regarding the video of Mr. Arbery’s murder, Page is asked how important that video will be to the outcome of the case. Page says that he doesn’t believe that there “would be a case without that video,” and says he thinks “it was clear that the people who were in charge of the investigation at the time before the video came out, they were not gonna bring any criminal charges. I don’t think we would be here but for that video. The video is clearly going to be critical evidence in the case. I think the defense is going to try to deal with it by trying to explain that their clients were engaged in a citizen’s arrest. But it’s gonna be really tough, I think, for the jury to get past what they’re seeing in that video and not feel some connection to Ahmaud Arbery and feel very bad about the tragic circumstances that ended his life.”

In addition to the charges in Glynn County, Georgia, the men accused of Mr. Arbery’s murder will also face charges in federal court, as did the men accused of the murder of George Floyd. Page is asked if he thinks this sets a precedent for future incidents of black people being killed by the police or other individuals. Page thinks that it could, and says he thinks based on the actions of the current administration and Attorney General Merrick Garland, we are seeing “a much more aggressive campaign to charge people with hate crimes and to prosecute them. I don’t think this is one of cases where the feds are coming in as a fall back. If they’re not convicted in the state case, we’ll try them in the federal case. The federal trial has already been set for February and I think it’s gonna go forward whether these people are convicted here in Glynn County or not.”

TRANSCRIPT:

Tracye: Jury selection is currently under way in the Ahmaud Arbery murder trial. The 25-year-old unarmed black man was shot and killed last year in South Georgia. Three white men are charged with Arbery’s murder. Joining us now is Page Pate, an attorney with more than 25 years of experience in criminal defense and civil litigation.

Rick: We’re glad you’re with us, Page. And we look forward to tapping into your expertise during this trial. Let’s start with the decision not to move the trial out of South Georgia. A lot of people had thought that there might be a request for that. How difficult will it be to find a fair and impartial jury in the community where Arbery as well as his accused killers lived?

Page: Well, I think, based on what we’ve seen so far, it’s going to be pretty difficult. But here in Glynn County, the Clark’s office has sent summons out to 1,000 different people. They had 600 people show up in different groups today and they’re questioning them 20 people at a time, number one, to see if they can find people who still do not have an opinion about the case. I think the defense would like to stay in Glynn County if at all possible because their clients have ties here, people know them. And ultimately, the judge is not looking for someone who’s never heard of the case because if you try to do that here, really anywhere, it’s gonna be hard to find. What the judge is looking for are people who have not made up their mind. And I think with that many jury summons going out, we’re gonna be able to pick an unbiased jury for this case.

Tracye: And Page, we were just showing some video there, a lot of the video that many of us saw that really sparked this investigation and sparked the arrest, the video shot by William “Roodie” Bryan. How pivotal will that piece of video be in this case? And it’s hard to imagine how different this case would be without that video.

Page: Tracye, I don’t think there would be a case without that video. I think it was clear that the people who were in charge of the investigation at the time before the video came out, they were not gonna bring any criminal charges. I don’t think we would be here but for that video. The video is clearly going to be critical evidence in the case. I think the defense is going to try to deal with it by trying to explain that their clients were engaged in a citizen’s arrest. But it’s gonna be really tough, I think, for the jury to get past what they’re seeing in that video and not feel some connection to Ahmaud Arbery and feel very bad about the tragic circumstances that ended his life.

Rick: We think about the George Floyd case, Page, and regardless of what happens in Glynn County, Arbery’s accused killers, just like Floyd’s, will also face federal charges. Does this set a precedent for future trials involving black people who are killed by police or people taking the law into their own hands?

Page: Well, it could, Rick. I think what we’re seeing from the current administration, especially the Attorney General Merrick Garland, is a much more aggressive campaign to charge people with hate crimes and to prosecute them. I don’t think this is one of cases where the feds are coming in as a fall back. If they’re not convicted in the state case, we’ll try them in the federal case. The federal trial has already been set for February and I think it’s gonna go forward whether these people are convicted here in Glynn County or not.

Tracye: Page Pate, our CBS 46 legal analyst. Page, thank you. Always a wealth of knowledge and we look forward to you guiding us through this trial.

Rick: Thanks, Page. Still ahead at 5:00.