ATLANTA — Lawyers for the three white Georgia men on trial for the murder of Ahmaud Arbery, a 25-year-old Black man, tried unsuccessfully on Monday to convince a judge to declare a mistrial, with one of the lawyers reiterating his argument that prominent Black pastors should not be allowed They unfairly influence the jury in courtrooms
Kevin Gough, who represents the defendant William Bryan, 52, unleashed a wave of condemnation last week when he declared that “we don’t want any more Black pastors coming in here” after the Rev. Al Sharpton spent a day observing the trial in the courtroom’s public gallery. On Monday, the Rev. Jesse L. Jackson came to the courtroom and sat between Mr. Arbery’s parents, prompting a second effort from Mr. Gough to ban the prominent civil rights leaders from the proceedings.
“Which pastor is next? Is Raphael Warnock going be the next person to speak? We don’t know,” said Mr. Gough, referring to the Atlanta minister who was elected to the Senate this year. “Your honor, I would submit, with all respect to the Rev. Jesse Jackson, that this is no different than bringing in police officers or uniformed prison guards in a small town where a young Black man has been accused of assaulting a law enforcement officer or corrections officer.”
Mr. Gough’s statements have inspired a rally, scheduled for Thursday, in which more than 100 Black pastors are planning to join Mr. Sharpton and the Arbery family in forming a “wall of prayer” in front of the courthouse in Glynn County, Ga. In a statement announcing the rally, Mr. Sharpton said Mr. Gough’s words demonstrated “basic bias — the same bias that killed Ahmaud Arbery.”
In an interview with The New York Times last Wednesday, Mr. Gough stated that he was trying ensure a fair trial for the client.
In recent days Judge Timothy R. Walmsley has rejected Mr. Gough’s request for a mistrial declaration, his call for a ban on Black preachers in court and a motion to have protesters moved away from the area directly outside the courthouse. The judge told Mr. Gough on Monday that some of his statements have been “reprehensible,” specifically mentioning a moment last week when Mr. Gough wondered aloud what it would be like “if a bunch of folks came in here dressed like Colonel Sanders with white masks sitting in the back.”
The most dramatic moment of the seventh day’s testimony was the failed attempt to request a mistrial. Interviews with investigators who dealt with forensic evidence were mostly the focus of the trial’s seventh day.
Mr. Jackson spoke briefly Monday morning on the courthouse steps, his voice seemingly ravaged by Parkinson’s disease, the neurological disorder with which he announced he was afflicted in 2017. He called the fight over his presence a “diversion” in a case he compared to that of Emmett Till, the 14-year-old murdered by white Mississippians in 1955. Mr. Jackson also spoke of a “decency factor” in the South, and said he sensed a “streak of fairness” in the jury.
Mr. Gough previously called for a mistrial. It is clear that there is widespread doubt about whether this trial will be fair, as he was joined by Travis McMichael, his father Gregory, and other lawyers. These doubts have been vocalized by supporters of Mr. Arbery who noted that the jury hearing this case is composed of 11 white people, one Black person, and Glynn County, which is approximately 27 percent Black.
Learn about the Ahmaud Arbery Killing
The shooting. On Feb. 23, 2020, Ahmaud Arbery, a 25-year-old Black man, was shot and killed after being chased by three white men while jogging near his home on the outskirts of Brunswick, Ga. The graphic video that captured the murder of Mr. Arbery was widely viewed by public.
Jason Sheffield, a lawyer for the younger Mr. McMichael, said on Monday that he was “constrained to join” in calling for a mistrial. He referred to a moment on Monday morning when Mr. Arbery’s mother, Wanda Cooper-Jones, burst out in sobs after her son’s photo was shown to the jury. Mr. Sheffield said several jurors looked toward Ms. Cooper-Jones sympathetically, and in so doing also saw Mr. Jackson, whom Mr. Sheffield referred to as “the ultimate figure of fairness and justice and equality.”
Franklin J. Hogue was a lawyer for Gregory McMichael and moved for a mistrial. The judge said at the time that there had been an appearance of “intentional discrimination” when the defense moved to reject several Black people during jury selection.
The comments, Mr. Hogue said, have “continued the difficulty we have had from the beginning in trying to determine, is this the right venue for this case?”
After the jury was dismissed in the afternoon, Mr. Gough told Judge Walmsley that he had hoped to “hear back from the court” over remarks he made this morning.
“On what?” the judge replied, tartly. “I’m confused — what are you waiting for, Mr. Gough?”
Mr. Gough backtracked.
“We’re in recess,” the judge said.
Source: NY Times