Tensions flared on Monday in the Georgia courtroom where three white men stand accused of murdering Ahmaud Arbery. Father and son Greg and Travis McMichael armed themselves and pursued the unarmed 25-year-old in a pickup truck after spotting him running in their neighborhood on Feb. 23, 2020. Their neighbor William “Roddie” Bryan joined the chase and took cellphone video of Travis McMichael shooting Arbery three times with a shotgun.
The morning’s testimony was largely disrupted by arguments outside the jury’s presence over the Reverend Jesse Jackson’s appearance. Jackson quietly sat in the back row of the courtroom between Arbery’s parents as defense attorney Kevin Gough asked the judge to make the civil rights leader leave to avoid unfairly influencing the jury. Gough, an attorney for Bryan, also complained last week when the Rev. Al Sharpton joined Arbery’s mother, Wanda Cooper-Jones, and father, Marcus Arbery Sr., inside the Glynn County courtroom. Gough told the judge Thursday “we don’t want any more Black pastors coming in here.”
Bryan and the McMichaels are charged with murder and other crimes. Prosecutors say they chased Arbery for five minutes to keep him from exiting the Satilla Shores subdivision outside the port city of Brunswick. The chase ended when Arbery, trailed by Bryan’s truck, tried to run around the McMichaels’ truck as it idled in the road ahead. The video shows Travis McMichael confronting Arbery and then shooting him as he throws punches and grapples for the gun. The McMichaels told police they suspected Arbery was a burglar after security cameras recorded him several times inside a home under construction, five houses away. Defense attorneys say Travis McMichael opened fire in self-defense.
Imagine having such a shitty client to defend that you actually request to have the Rev. Jesse Jackson removed from the courtroom.
Judge denied request. That's how the Ahmaud Arbery trial is going.
— BrooklynDad_Defiant! (@mmpadellan) November 15, 2021
“There is no reason for these prominent icons in the civil rights movement to be here,” Gough said Monday. “With all due respect, I would suggest, whether intended or not, that inevitably a juror is going to be influenced by their presence in the courtroom.” Superior Court Judge Timothy Walmsley declined the request. Courtrooms are generally open to the public, although the judge has limited seating in the public gallery because of the coronavirus pandemic.
A lawyer for one of #AhmaudArbery's killers tried to remove civil rights leader Rev. Jesse Jackson from the courtroom.
The request was denied. The same lawyer, Kevin Gough, last week tried to remove Rev. Al Sharpton, saying: "We don’t want any more Black pastors coming in here." pic.twitter.com/38TRB7M0ej
— AJ+ (@ajplus) November 15, 2021
The judge said he found the defense lawyer’s complaints last week about Black pastors to be “reprehensible” and no group would be excluded from his courtroom. He also denied the defense’s mistrial requests Monday after defense attorneys claimed jurors were “tainted” by weeping from the gallery where the slain Black man’s parents sat with the Rev. Jackson.
Kevin Gough, a lawyer representing one of the three white men who murdered #AhmaudArbery, told the judge he didn’t want any more Black pastors in the courtroom supporting Arbery‘s family.
He also didn’t want any Black jurors. The jury has 11 whites and one Black person. pic.twitter.com/JjvFmRauL5
— Bishop Talbert Swan (@TalbertSwan) November 15, 2021