Potential jurors in the hate crime trial for Sean Urbanski, the Maryland man accused of murdering 23-year-old Bowie State University student Richard Collins III, answered questions about race and alcohol during the selection process, reports WJZ-TV.
Urbanski fatally stabbed Collins at a bus stop on the University of Maryland campus on May 20, 2017. Collins, a newly-commissioned U.S. Army lieutenant just days away from graduating, was visiting a friend that day. Surveillance video shows Urbanski walking past two college students, a white man, and an Asian woman before he confronts Collins—the only black person at the stop.
Prosecutors will argue that Urbanski was motivated by racial hatred, and will use material found on his phone—including racist memes and activity in the now-deleted Facebook group, “Alt-Reicht: Nation”—to convince a jury that Urbanski committed a hate crime.
According to WJZ-TV, Judge Lawrence Hill “asked the jury pool several questions about race, including whether they believed people who told racist jokes and sent racist memes were racist.” A majority of the pool agreed.
Hill also asked the potential jurors about their experiences with alcoholism and alcohol use. Urbanski’s defense team are not contesting the fact that he stabbed Collins, but are expected to argue that Urbanski did so because he was “out-of-his-mind drunk,” according to the Washington Post.
According to his attorneys, eight hours after Urbanski stabbed Collins, his blood alcohol concentration was .10. The legal limit in Maryland is .08.
Urbanski will be tried for first-degree murder and a state hate crime charge, which could bring him life in prison without the possibility of parole if convicted. His fate will likely rest on whether a jury thinks the racist material on his phone is sufficient grounds to prove that Collins’ death was racially motivated.
Opening statements are scheduled to begin Wednesday. On the eve of the trial, Collins’ family released a statement.
“Richard’s future was bright, and we couldn’t be prouder of all he accomplished over the course of his short life. The delays in this case have prolonged our pain and anguish over his senseless murder,” they wrote. “Nothing will bring our son back, but we’re glad that the trial is finally starting and hope the criminal justice system will provide a measure of closure by bringing to justice the man responsible for Richard’s death to the fullest extent of the law.”