‘Breakdown’ Ep. 12: The Ahmaud Arbery murder trial begins

Potential jurors are being summoned to the Glynn County courthouse in Brunswick for the start of the trial of three men charged in the death of Ahmaud Arbery. Episode 12 of the AJC's "Breakdown" podcast sets up what is expected to be one of the most closely followed trials in Georgia history. (Hyosub Shin / hshin@ajc.com)
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Potential jurors are being summoned to the Glynn County courthouse in Brunswick for the start of the trial of three men charged in the death of Ahmaud Arbery. Episode 12 of the AJC's "Breakdown" podcast sets up what is expected to be one of the most closely followed trials in Georgia history. (Hyosub Shin / hshin@ajc.com)

Credit: Hyosub Shin

Credit: Hyosub Shin

Hundreds of jurors are being summoned to Brunswick. There has been a flurry of pretrial motions. And the trial judge has issued some key rulings.

The trial for the three men charged in the death of Ahmaud Arbery will begin Oct. 18, almost 20 months to the day after he was shot and killed. The 12th episode of Season 8 of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s “Breakdown” podcast sets up what is expected to be one of the most closely followed trials in Georgia history.

Arbery, a 25-year-old unarmed, Black man, was killed Feb. 23, 2020, in the Satilla Shores neighborhood just outside of coastal Brunswick.

Travis McMichael, who killed Arbery with three shotgun blasts; his father, Greg McMichael, a retired investigator for the Glynn County District Attorney’s Office; and a neighbor, William “Roddie” Bryan, who took the infamous cellphone video of the shooting, are charged with murder, false imprisonment and other charges. The three defendants are white.

The McMichaels, armed and riding in Travis McMichael’s pickup truck, chased Arbery as he ran through the neighborhood. Seeing them pass by his house, Bryant got in his pickup truck and joined in the chase.

Race is expected to play a big role during jury selection and at trial, depending on what evidence Superior Court Judge Timothy Walmsley allows.

ExploreComplete coverage of the Ahmaud Arbery case

“We all know that the trial is going to be an issue of whether or not these folks were racist or not,” said Marietta lawyer Ashleigh Merchant, who is closely following the case.

In a pretrial motion, lawyers for the McMichaels are asking Walmsley to prohibit the state from putting into evidence photographs of the vanity plate on the front of Travis McMichael’s pickup truck. It depicted Georgia’s previous state flag which prominently featured the Confederate battle emblem.

ExploreDocuments in the Ahmaud Arbery shooting case

Prosecutors are expected to argue that the sight of the license plate likely caused a panicked Arbery to try even harder to run away from the McMichaels.

Jury selection is expected to be a challenge because the case has received so much publicity, jury consultant Denise de La Rue said.

“I would not trust a juror who came in in Glynn County and said, ‘I’m not familiar with this case,’” de La Rue said. “They’re either not being truthful or living in a cave.”

ExploreListen to previous seasons of the AJC's 'Breakdown' podcast