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Media fight to keep access to jury selection for trial in Arbery death

FILE - In this image made from video, Travis McMichael, left, and Greg McMichael listen to a...
FILE - In this image made from video, Travis McMichael, left, and Greg McMichael listen to a preliminary hearing via a court video feed, Thursday, June 4, 2020, while inside the in the Glynn County jail, in Brunswick, Ga. Defense attorneys for the men charged in the slaying of Ahmaud Arbery are asking a Georgia judge to keep reporters out of the courtroom when lawyers question potential jurors to determine if they have biases in the widely publicized case. In their court motion, defense attorneys say it's critical that potential jurors feel as comfortable as possible answering questions about race and other sensitive topics to ensure the McMichaels are tried by an impartial jury. “We must create the best environment for jurors to share their true thoughts, beliefs, biases, and prejudices about very sensitive subjects,” Jason Sheffield, an attorney for Travis McMichael, said in an email Thursday, July 15, 2021. (Glynn County Jail via AP, Pool)(AP)
Published: Jul. 21, 2021 at 12:05 PM EDT
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BRUNSWICK, Ga. - Media outlets including The Associated Press are objecting to an effort to bar the press from one part of jury selection in the upcoming murder trial of three men accused of killing Ahmaud Arbery.

Attorneys for two of the defendants have asked a Georgia judge to keep reporters out of the courtroom when lawyers question potential jurors to determine whether they have biases in the widely publicized case. In a court filing Tuesday, the media outlets said that would run afoul of well-established precedent.

Greg McMichael and Travis McMichael, a white father and son, are charged with murder in the February 2020 killing of Arbery, a 25-year-old Black man who was shot while out for a run

A legal motion by the attorneys for the McMichaels requests that potential jurors be questioned individually with “no press” present. They say that’s to ensure potential jurors are comfortable answering questions about race and other sensitive topics.

Georgia law presumes court proceedings are open to the public, though judges can make rare exceptions.

Travis McMichael and his father, Greg McMichael, armed themselves with guns and pursued Arbery in a pickup truck when they spotted him running in their coastal Georgia neighborhood Feb. 23, 2020. A neighbor, William “Roddie” Bryan joined the chase and took cellphone video of Travis McMichael shooting Arbery three times at close range with a shotgun.

Defense attorneys say the McMichaels suspected Arbery was a burglar who had been recorded entering a nearby home under construction and they were trying to detain him until police could arrive. They say Travis McMichael shot him when Arbery attacked and tried to grab his shotgun.

The case sparked a national outcry during a year of protests over killings of unarmed Black people. It also led to changed in Georgia’s citizen’s arrest law.

Arbery has family ties to the CSRA and is buried near Waynesboro.

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