Georgetown University Law professor and former prosecutor Paul Butler weighed in on MSNBC’s “Katy Tur Reports” Thursday concerning the nearly all-white jury selection in the Ahmaud Arbery murder trial, claiming it “sounds like the old Jim Crow South.”
The trial of three white men accused of murdering Ahmaud Arbery, who was shot and killed in Southeast Georgia last year, is set to begin on Friday. In April, the three defendants were charged with federal hate crimes in connection with Arbery’s killing. There are 11 white people on the jury and one black individual. All four alternate jurors are reportedly also white.
Arbery’s death triggered national protests following posted cellphone footage of the incident that allegedly showed him being chased down and shot over a suspected robbery.
The defense is also reportedly unhappy with jury selection but the trial will proceed nevertheless. The attorney who is representing William Bryan, who filmed the shooting, told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that the original jury selection was devoid of white men over 40 without a four-year college degree. He referred to that demographic as “Bubbas or Joe six-packs” who would diversify the jury.
“What do you make of that?” guest anchor Chris Jansing asked Butler.
“Now all three defendants have a jury of Bubbas. I guess they think that that’s their peers. Again, 11 white people,” he remarked. “This sounds like the old Jim Crow South. It doesn’t sound like what we’d expect in a case involving a modern-day lynching in a district that has about 30 percent of the jury pool being white.”
(Video Credit: MSNBC | Katy Tur Reports)
“Ironically in Minneapolis, where Derek Chauvin was tried for murder of George Floyd, there’s a smaller percentage of black people in that city’s population, but that jury was half black. In this case, the county’s about 30 percent African-American. One black out of 12 people on that jury. That’s a crying shame,” Butler asserted.
Butler told the Washington Post, “One might have thought that a virtually all-white jury in a trial of white men accused of lynching a black man was a relic of the Jim Crow past. But in Walmsley’s courtroom, everything Old South is new again.”
The law professor also did an interview with correspondent John Yang at “PBS NewsHour” airing his opinion on jury selection for the highly-publicized trial.
“I have never heard of another case in which a judge has found intentional discrimination, but then declared there’s nothing that they can do about it in the jury selection process,” Butler stated.
“What the judge said was that the reasons that were offered by the defense, including that some of the jurors knew some of the prospective jurors had heard stuff about the case, had formed opinions or talked with family members about it, the judge found that all of those were race-neutral,” he continued.
“But if you look at other jurors, white folks who were allowed to remain on the jury, they answered some of the same questions the same way. For example, one white juror said that she thought that Mr. Arbery had been racially profiled. She’s still on the jury,” the professor noted.
“Another white juror said that she had long conversations with her husband about the case. She’s still on the jury. So, there’s a concern that the defense used answers like that from Black prospective jurors to strike them,” he pointed out.
“And, again, if they’re treating African American and white potential jurors differently, that’s unconstitutional,” Butler concluded.
JURY SET – Chatham County Superior Court Judge Timothy Warsley is overseeing the Ahmaud Arbery murder trial. 11 jurors are white, and one is black. Judge Warmsley had this to say about the defense’s removal of black jurors, calling it “intentional discrimination.” #AhmaudArbery pic.twitter.com/dzC7aPqs5w
— Cyreia Sandlin (@CyreiaSandlin) November 4, 2021
Civil rights attorney Benjamin Crump, who is representing Arbery’s family, released a statement on Thursday denouncing the jury selection.
“After being hunted down, cornered, and shot for being a black man in a white Georgia neighborhood, Ahmaud Arbery is again denied justice,” Crump declared in a statement on Twitter. “His killers’ fate will be decided by a nearly all-white jury.”
“A jury should reflect the community,” Crump argued. “It’s outrageous that black jurors were intentionally excluded to create such an imbalanced jury in a cynical effort to help those cold-blooded killers escape justice.”
NEWS ALERT: @AttorneyCrump responds to the selection of 11 white jurors and 1 Black juror for the trial of Travis McMichael, Gregory McMichael, and William Bryan for the killing of Ahmaud Arbery. pic.twitter.com/0qvrrnXYV4
— Ben Crump Law, PLLC (@BenCrumpLaw) November 4, 2021
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