Jury chosen for Sean Urbanski murder trial

Judge Lawrence Hill (center), surrounded by prosecutors Jason Abbott and Jonathon Church, defense attorneys William Brennan and John McKenna, and defendant Sean Urbanski (far right) during jury selection. (Hannah Gaskill/The Diamondback)

Jillian Atelsek and Nora Eckert
Senior staff writers

UPPER MARLBORO — After a two-day selection process, the jury that will hear the case against former University of Maryland student Sean Urbankski was chosen Tuesday.

Urbanski, who is white, faces murder and hate crime charges in the killing of 2nd. Lt. Richard Collins, a black Bowie State University student who was stabbed to death on this university’s campus in May 2017.

Before the 12 jurors and four alternates left the courtroom Tuesday, Judge Lawrence Hill warned them not to discuss the case or conduct any independent research on it. The majority of the 16 jurors chosen are people of color.

Collins was killed while he waited with two friends for an Uber in the early hours of May 20, 2017. The 23-year-old was just days away from graduating from Bowie State University. By the next day, police had charged Urbanski in the killing.

Hill ruled in June that Urbanski would face hate crime charges and that racist cartoons and images found on his phone would be admissible as evidence. Prosecutors said in June that by choosing to attack Collins, the only black person in the group standing at the bus stop, Urbanski was “showing a hatred toward black people.”

During Monday’s proceedings, Hill asked the entire group of prospective jurors about racially insensitive jokes and alcoholism. Tuesday’s questioning, though, was individual and much more private.

About 60 jurors filed into court Tuesday, just over half of the 100 who started early the day before. As the judge called their number, they approached the table to individually answer the same set of questions they were asked as a group on Monday, while white noise played out of courtroom speakers to obscure their responses.

Defense attorneys, the prosecution and Urbanski sat at the circle table while Hill questioned jurors, with attorneys jotting down notes and leaning in to catch every word. Maryland is one of the few states where judges, not attorneys, ask questions of potential jurors.

Across from the rows of jurors sat members of the Collins family, clad mostly in black and gray, watching silently as the questioning continued. Some took notes or highlighted sections of the documents they held.

As the family left the courtroom before the final round of jury selection, they held each other, several wiping tears from their eyes.

After four delays over the last two years, the trial will commence with opening arguments on Wednesday morning at the Prince George’s County Circuit Court in Upper Marlboro.

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