Defense Attorney: ‘We Don’t Want Any More Black Pastors’ in Court for Trial Over Death of Ahmaud Arbery

(BRUNSWICK, Ga.) — An attorney for one of the white men standing trial in the death of Ahmaud Arbery told the judge Thursday he doesn’t want “any more Black pastors” in the courtroom after the Rev. Al Sharpton sat with the slain man’s family.

Kevin Gough represents William “Roddie” Bryan, who along with father and son Greg and Travis McMichael is charged with murder and other crimes in Arbery’s Feb. 23, 2020, killing. Black 25-year-old man, who was running around in the neighborhood of Brunswick, Georgia, was followed by the defendants and then shot.
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Gough told Superior Court Judge Timothy Walmsley that he was concerned Sharpton’s presence in court Wednesday was an attempt to intimidate the disproportionately white jury hearing the case. He made his remarks even though the jury wasn’t present in courtroom.

Jury Selection Continues In Trial Of Ahmaud Arbery's Killers
Octavio Jones—Pool/Getty ImagesKevin Gough is the defense attorney and speaks to jurors during trial selection of Ahmaud Abery suspects in Brunswick, Georgia.

“Obviously there’s only so many pastors they can have,” Gough said. “And if their pastor’s Al Sharpton right now that’s fine, but then that’s it. We don’t want any more Black pastors coming in here… sitting with the victim’s family, trying to influence the jurors in this case.”

Gough said he didn’t realize Sharpton had been there until after court had adjourned for the day.

“You weren’t even aware of it until later?” the judge said. “I’m not sure what we’re doing.”

Jason Sheffield, one of Travis McMichael’s lawyers, told the judge he didn’t notice any distractions caused by Sharpton, who sat in the back row of the courtroom gallery wearing a mask.

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Sharpton held a prayer vigil and news conference outside the Glynn County courthouse Wednesday afternoon to show support for Arbery’s family. Afterward he joined Arbery’s parents and their lawyers to listen to portions of the trial testimony.

Sharpton said in a statement that Gough’s remarks showed “arrogant insensitivity.”

“I respect the defense attorney doing his job,” Sharpton said, “but this is beyond defending your client, it is insulting the family of the victim.”

The jury selection process ended last week after prosecutors opposed the final jury consisting of eleven white jurors and one Black member. The judge agreed there appeared to be “intentional discrimination” in the exclusion of Black potential jurors, but said Georgia law limited his authority to intervene.

A white female juror was removed from the jury room before the trial started for medical reasons. Fifteen total panelists are hearing the trial—12 jurors plus three alternates. The alternate jurors were not informed by the judge and did not have to be identified in open court.


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