Prosecutors in the trial of Ahmaud Arbery’s killers explain why they had faith in the jury

Cobb County’s chief assistant attorney, Linda Donikowski, told Jim Acosta to CNN that after the jurors were selected, “her team realized that we had very smart, very intelligent, and honest jurors who would do their job of looking for the truth.”

“We felt that making our case, it didn’t matter whether they were black or white, and making our case that this jury would hear the truth, they would see the evidence and they would do the right thing and come back with the right judgment that we felt they did today.”

Nine white women, two white men and one black man served on the jury, according to a CNN analysis of jury data. Historically, all-white juries in cases involving whites in the deaths of black men lead to acquittals, according to scholars and legal experts who spoke to CNN about the trial of Arbery’s killers.
The jurors’ racial makeup was reminiscent of the Jim Crow era and soon drew comparisons to the fallout from Emmett’s death, when a white 1955 jury acquitted the two men arrested for Emmett’s murder, experts said.
But unlike the trial of these two white men in 1955, the three white men in 2021 were all convicted of multiple murders.
Race played a large role in this trial, but prosecutors did not touch it as well as the defense did. At one point during Monday’s closing arguments, one of Gregory McMichael’s attorneys, Laura Hough, sparked outrage in the courtroom by triggering Arbery’s fingernails.

“The victimization of Ahmaud Arbery after the choices he made does not reflect the fact that Ahmaud Arbery drove Satila Shores in his khaki shorts without socks to cover his long, dirty toenails,” Hogg told jurors.

Cobb County’s assistant district attorney Larissa Oliver told CNN on Wednesday that she felt bad for Arbery’s parents after Hogg’s comments.

“I think the comments were unnecessary and were low, and I feel bad because Ahmed’s mom and dad had to sit there and listen to all this stuff,” Oliver said.

A lawyer in Arbery's execution trial tried to keep black priests out of court.  So more than 100 attended today
Then there were comments from Kevin Gough, attorney for William “Rudy” Bryan, who has repeatedly objected to the presence of nationally recognized civil rights leaders at trial in support of the Arbery family.

“We don’t want more black priests coming here… sitting with the victim’s family trying to sway the jury on this case,” he said.

Denikowski said Goff’s comments about black priests—though they came without a jury—were strategic.

“Mr. Gough is a very, very good attorney, and he has done on purpose, on purpose and strategic, I believe, what he did in trying to introduce some potential errors into the case should she lose the case and appear on appeal.”

Although race played a large role in and out of the courtroom, Donikowski said she hopes what has taken people away from this trial is that parents in a similar situation will trust the process and advocate for their child.

“Wanda Cooper-Jones and Marcus Arbery (Arbery’s mother and father) were Ahmed’s advocates, and they pushed this when it first happened,” she said. “And I think the message is that you have to let the criminal justice system work, in which case, yes, it worked, and for trust, which they did, trust us, trust this team to deliver justice for them and their families, but you have to trust the constitution system and legal process. obligatory only to allow it to function.”

Kristina Maxuris, Travis Caldwell, Elliot C. McLaughlin, Devon M. Sayers, Alta Spells, Steve Almasi, Nicole Chavez and Brandon Tinsley contributed to this report.


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