In multiple co-defendant cases, prosecutors just LOVE to flip one of the defendants who participated in the crime into a state’s witness. This is even more so in a murder case and on May 22nd, when William Bryan was charged with the murder of Ahmaud Arbery two weeks after the father and son duo of Gregory and Travis McMichael were charged, I knew that it was only a matter of time before Bryan would tell it all.
(Defendant William Bryant)
So it came as no surprise to me today when during a seven hour preliminary hearing, that Georgia Bureau of Investigation Assistant Special Agent in Charge Richard Dial testified that Bryan told police that Travis McMichael called Arbery a “fu*king ni**er” after blasting him three times from point blank range with his shotgun. Arbery, 26, was left dead in the street in the same way that many of our ancestors were left to rot after being lynched during the Jim Crow era.
I was not surprised by testimony that a Confederate flag sticker was on the toolbox of McMichael’s truck, nor was I surprised to learn that text messages and social media chatter from the younger McMichaels was littered with racist comments.
(Defendant Travis McMichaels–the shooter)
Still, much like Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison noted earlier today that the case against the four officers who killed George Floyd, 46, will not be a slam dunk, the same will hold true in the Arbery case as well. I say this because having tried over 150 serious felony cases during my career, and over a dozen murder or attempted murder cases in the last decade alone, I know that jury pools are filled with a number of whites who come into the building giving the police and former police, like the elder McMichael, a strong benefit of the doubt that they do not give anyone else. I also know that jurors do not check their biases and racial prejudices at the door, and if they already believe the stereotypes about the criminally pre-disposed dangerous black male, they will carry those racist ideations right into that jury room with them to deliberate.
It has been my experience that Black jurors are few and far between on many cases, sometimes due to a paucity being called by the clerk’s office “random” selection, sometimes because few Blacks live in the jurisdiction, and more often than I care to see, because far too many Black jurors do the absolute most to avoid jury service once they show up with a summons. Which, ostensibly, is regrettable–especially in cases like Ahmaud Arbery’s and George Floyd’s–because the grisly photos and videos of Blacks being murdered, or coming to court each day and observing the Black victim’s families sitting on the front row crying during the trial, often do not move white jurors who harbor biases about Black suspects who die during encounters with the police or police-ish posses.
Last, the pictures below remind us all that just like picture postcards of the lynched often were joked about and sold for huge profits, the modern day photos and videos draw a yawn and a shrug from many of the very folks who by lot, will sit on a jury and determine a given case’s outcome. Let us pray that in both cases, that 12 jurors who will be fair and impartial will well and truly try these cases and deliver that still elusive goal for Blacks and other people of color–which is justice!
Lest we forget…