GLYNN COUNTY, Ga. — Losing her son left Wanda Cooper-Jones with several questions. She said no answers came in the death of her son, Ahmaud Arbery, for 74 days. That's when a video of her son's February 2020 killing became public.
"Today, I'm thankful that I've reached a stage in the case where we are going to pick a jury and possibly put these men behind bars forever," Cooper-Jones said.
Arbery's family has called his death a "modern-day lynching," and they believe he was targeted because he was black. With loads of national attention on this trial, Arbery's family said they know the outcome will come down to who sits on the jury.
“It’s going to be difficult to find a group of people who have never heard of the case, but certainly we want to be sure the people added to the jury don’t hold any bias," Arbery family attorney Lee Merritt said.
Monday marked the first day of jury selection in the trial. In all, 1,000 potential jurors have been summoned. They will be narrowed down to 12 jurors and four alternates; a process that could take weeks.
The jury will decide the fates of three men who stand accused of murder in Arbery's death. Gregory McMichael, his son Travis, and their neighbor William "Roddy" Bryan are all charged. Arbery, 25, was shot and killed while jogging in Brunswick, Ga.
The defense claims the three accused used Georgia's old citizen's arrest law to justify following Arbery and shooting him because the defendants believed Arbery was connected to burglaries in the neighborhood. However, investigators have said there's no evidence that Arbery was involved.
Dr. Andra Gillespie, a political science professor at Emory University, said the trial could shine new light on prosecutors and elected officials. She said it could possibly lead to a review and revision of Georgia's stand-your-ground laws. Since Arbery's killing, Georgia has already enacted a Hate Crimes law and repealed much of the old citizen's arrest law.
In addition, Brunswick's former District Attorney, Jackie Johnson, was indicted after an investigation showed that she did not initially file charges in the Arbery case and later recused herself from it.
"The larger societal question is whether or not people will link what happened to Ahmaud Arbery to larger societal and systemic issues," Gillespie said. "That's where we see a huge and clear divide."
The trial could stretch as long as November 19. For now, Cooper-Jones said she would be focused on seeking justice for her son.
"Ahmaud actually was my baby boy," Cooper-Jones said. "Ahmaud was a brother, an uncle, a grandson. To sum it all up, Ahmaud was loved."