More than four years after a naked Black man was shot and killed by a white Georgia cop, jury selection began Monday in his murder trial.
Robert “Chip” Olsen, who is no longer a DeKalb County police officer, fatally shot 27-year-old Anthony Hill, a mentally ill Afghanistan War veteran, on March 9, 2015, at an apartment complex where police had been called because Hill was outside behaving erratically. After initial contact with Olsen, Hill went into his apartment and re-emerged naked before ultimately being shot by the officer.
The aim of the trial is to determine whether the shooting constitutes murder.
“So far 13 prospective jurors, 12 women, have been interviewed by lawyers in the #OlsenTrial,” a reporter tweeted just before 2:45 p.m. “Few of them even knew of the case, lessening the chances of change of venue. Not one has said theyve made up their mind one way or the other #AnthonyHill.”
Activist and attorney Gerald Griggs tweeted that the trial is expected to last 3 1/2 weeks from jury selection to verdict.
“The Judge denied a majority of the Defense’s motions to exclude evidence, therefore the State will be able to talk about Mr. Hill’s military service and mental heath struggles,” Griggs said on Twitter.
He has been an outspoken advocate for Hill and other Black men shot and killed by police.
“He served this country and he should not have had to go to foreign land to defend this country, then come home to be gunned down by a public servant,” Griggs said in another Twitter post about Hill Monday.
Olsen, 57, and his attorneys have said he was acting in self-defense when he fired at Hill, but prosecutors have deemed the shooting a use of excessive force.
Olsen was indicted on charges of felony murder, aggravated assault, violation of oath of office and making a false statement and later resigned from the police force, according to Georgia Public Broadcasting.
Related: Georgia Judge Denies Motion to Drop Charges Against Cop Who Shot, Killed Anthony Hill
In DeKalb County, where the jury would be seated, more than half of the population is Black and about 35 percent is white, according to U.S. Census data.
“In this case, where you’re defending a police officer and it’s a white-on-black shooting, this may not be the best county for that kind of case,” Decatur defense attorney Bob Rubin told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “You may find a pretty hostile environment in the courtroom for jury selection. And you may hope it goes so badly that you end up getting a change of venue to a different county.”
Former DeKalb District Attorney Robert James, who indicted Olsen on two counts of felony murder, told the newspaper many prospective jurors will start off with fixed opinions unlikely to change.
“A lot of your jurors in DeKalb have had experiences that force them to see law enforcement and government a different way,” he said.
When asked who has had a bad experience with law enforcement officers, “about 90 percent of their hands go up,” James told the AJC.