TSR Trial Watch: The defense attorney representing one of the three white men on trial for the fatal shooting of Ahmaud Arbery objected Thursday to the Rev. Al Sharpton’s presence in the courtroom, suggesting it intimidates jurors.
“We don’t want any more Black pastors coming in here,” Kevin Gough, the lawyer who is representing William “Roddy” Bryan, told Judge Timothy Walmsley when the jury was out of the courtroom.
Gough claimed he didn’t learn until Wednesday night that Al Sharpton had been in court that day but he pleaded with the judge to take action on it, claiming he wants to keep “politics” out of the case.
“I’m guessing he was there at the invitation of the victim’s family in this case,” Gough said when court resumed after a lunch break. “And I have nothing personal against Mr. Sharpton. My concern is that it’s one thing for the family to be present. It’s another thing to ask for the lawyers to be present.”
He continued, “But if we’re going to start a precedent, starting yesterday, where we’re going to bring high-profile members of the African American community into the courtroom to sit with the family during the trial in the presence of the jury, I believe that’s intimidating and it’s an attempt to pressure — could be consciously or unconsciously — an attempt to pressure or influence the jury.”
Gough added that “to his knowledge,” Al Sharpton doesn’t have a church in Glynn County, Georgia, where the trial is being held “and never has.”
“We have school board members, we have county commissioners, we have all kinds of pastors in this town. Over 100. And the idea that we’re going to be serially bringing these people in to sit with the victim’s family, one after another, obviously there’s only so many pastors they can have,” Gough said. “And if their pastor right now is Al Sharpton, that’s fine. Then that’s it. We don’t want any more Black pastors coming in here … trying to influence the jury in this case.”
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According to NBC News, Sharpton said his attendance Wednesday was not disruptive in any way and was at the invitation of Ahmaud Arbery’s family.
“The arrogant insensitivity of attorney Kevin Gough in asking a judge to bar me or any minister of the family’s choice underscores the disregard for the value of the human life lost and the grieving of a family in need spiritual and community support,” Sharpton said. “This is pouring salt into their wounds. I respect the defense attorney doing his job but this is beyond defending your client, it is insulting the family of the victim.”
Prosecutor Linda Dunikoski said “the state had no part in that whatsoever.”
“It’s a public courtroom and I have no idea how the Rev. Al Sharpton appeared to be here,” she said. “So the state is unaware of how that occurred or how he came to be seated with the family.”
Judge Walmsley didn’t seem too impressed with the defense attorney bringing Al Sharpton up. Walmsley said he was made aware Wednesday that Sharpton would be sitting in the courtroom instead of someone from Ahmaud’s family.
“And my comment to that was simply, as long as things are not disruptive and it’s not a distraction to the jury or anything else going on in the courtroom, so be it,” Walmsley said. “But if it violates the court’s rules with regard to the conduct of the trial or violates my orders with respect to how people are to conduct themselves in this courtroom, I will take it up with whomever I need to take it up with.”
Walmsley added he noticed Sharpton once “and that was it.”
“And the fact that nobody else even noticed that he was in here, means that everybody complied with this court’s rulings on sitting in this courtroom and listening to the evidence,” Walmsley said. “I don’t hear a motion and I will tell you this, I am not going to blanketly exclude members of the public from this courtroom.”
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Thursday marked the fifth day of testimony in the trial. Bryan and his friends Gregory and Travis McMichael are accused in Ahmaud’s February 2020 shooting death.
Ahmaud was gunned down while running in a Georgia suburb. We’ll keep you posted on any updates.
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