St Louis prosecutor slams ‘hideously unfair’ process in which some jury pool said to have taken selfie with man on trial
The trial of an alleged white supremacist who is accused of gunning down a black man in St Louis began on Thursday after weeks of chaos in the courthouse over the decision to forego a jury of his peers.
Ahmad Arbery, 33, is accused of the assault and killing of Mohamed Mohamed during a daylight shooting last June. A controversial use of a jury panel has since thrown the case into chaos, and a judge has thrown out some potential jurors.
The trial began with a chaotic rush in the jury selection. A photograph of the six-member panel – four white men and two white women – was shown and all took a selfie, which has since been circulated online. Some of the people in the photograph have argued they could not have taken a selfie. The photograph remains on the internet despite other jurors alleging they were not allowed to view a transcript of the photographs, which was read out to them during the selection process.
One woman later told the judge she and several others were identified and selected for the jury before having their names cross-checked against the photograph. The jurors could not be identified by name.
Security was visibly increased at the courthouse. Police helicopters hovered above the courthouse and police showed off search dogs trained to detect potential bomb-making materials. Six extra FBI agents and deputies with body cameras were added to the prosecution team.
The judge, Timothy Wilson, questioned potential jurors about whether they could be fair and impartial after what he called a “hideously unfair” selection process. One potential juror said he couldn’t be impartial because of social media comments he had read about the defendant and told the judge he didn’t believe he would be impartial.
“We have struggled with choices here,” said Wilson. “This is an impossible problem.”
Prosecutors said evidence against Arbery showed he was the one who pulled the trigger. It was reported that Arbery, the accused, told police that he fired at two men sitting in a car “and accidentally killed one of them”.
Arbery has a previous conviction for assault and burglary in 2006. He was on probation at the time of the shooting, St Louis police said.