OZARK, Ala. (AP) — A majority-white jury was seated Monday to hear the murder trial of an Alabama police officer charged with killing an unarmed black man.
News outlets report the panel of 14 jurors, including two alternates, is mostly white, but the exact breakdown is unclear. WSFA-TV reported that nine jurors are white; the Montgomery Advertiser reported four jurors are black.
Montgomery police Officer Aaron Cody Smith is charged in the 2016 shooting death of 58-year-old Gregory Gunn. Smith, who is white, maintains he shot Gunn in self-defense.
Smith fatally shot Gunn on Feb. 25, 2016, during a confrontation after he stopped Gunn as he walked through his neighborhood shortly after 3 a.m.
Gunn was walking home from a weekly card game and was shot and killed next door to the house he shared with his mother, friends said. The defense has said Smith stopped Gunn because he thought he was suspicious.
Smith testified during an immunity hearing last year that he was “absolutely” in fear of his life when he shot Gunn. He said Gunn had swatted his hand away during a frisk, ran from him and was “arming himself” with a six-foot (1.8-meter) painter’s pole from a front porch. Gunn said he first tried a stun gun and baton on Gunn before pulling his weapon.
Gunn was shot five times.
The shooting was not captured on camera because Smith did not activate his body camera or turn on his patrol car lights, which would have activated a dash camera.
The trial was moved to Ozark after defense lawyers argued Smith couldn’t get a fair trial in Montgomery. The Alabama Supreme Court granted a change of venue but denied Smith’s immunity claims.