Attorney Gerald A. Griggs said it is highly “disturbing” that only one African American juror was chosen to be on the super-charged Ahmaud Arbery murder trial.
Griggs, a criminal defense attorney and first vice president of the Atlanta chapter of the NAACP, outlined several reasons why his sensibilities were rankled by the Glen County, Georgia, judge’s decision to sign off on a jury comprised of 11 Whites and one Black.
Three White men are accused of chasing down Arbery in February 2020 as he jogged in a predominantly White neighborhood in Brunswick, a seaside town about 300 miles southwest of Atlanta.
Exercising a form of “vigilante justice,” as Griggs termed it, Greg McMichael and his son Travis accosted Arbery and then “executed” him by shooting him three times with a shotgun. A third man, William “Roddie” Bryan, helped chase down Arbery in a second truck and videotaped the killing. It was the leaking of this videotape that catapulted this violent episode from a small-town story into an international cause célèbre while simultaneously revving up the speed of justice.
Griggs said the racial composition of the jury is alarming for at least three reasons. First, Superior Court Judge Timothy Walmsley admitted openly that defense attorneys for the three White men deliberately removed Black jurors because of their race.
“The Batson Case stands for the proposition that prosecutors cannot strike jurors based solely upon race, but it’s also improper for the defense counsel to do the same thing,” Griggs said, saying that the defense actually committed this very unethical act.
“The first part is, was there clear discrimination? Clearly, the judge found that was clear discrimination,” Griggs continued. “But the second part of the test is whether there was a race-neutral reason for the strike, and then the defense can explain (the removal of the Black jurors). And so the judge said that their explanation was satisfactory to him.
“It wasn’t satisfactory to me.”
Another reason why Griggs is perturbed is this: the makeup of the jury is in stark contrast to the demographics of the region. Glen County is nearly 30 percent Black. The county seat of Brunswick, where the killing took place, is more than 55 percent African American, according to WorldPopulationReview.com.
Thirdly is the reason Griggs says he heard the defense give for the jury makeup. Griggs said the defense attorneys say they want more “Joe Six Packs” and “Bubbas” on the jury.
“And if we’re trying to convince a community this was justified, you need a certain type of juror who’s more predisposed to racist beliefs. So that’s why it’s disturbing to me,” Griggs said.
Another thing could be alarming to the throngs of African Americans watching this case intently.
“Again, I’m disturbed, that there’s only one African American juror. Hopefully, that person is a juror and not an alternate,” Griggs said, adding: “because if they’re an alternate, then there will not be a Black juror on the jury. And that’s even more disturbing.”