BRUNSWICK, Ga. — The judge in the murder trial of three white men accused of killing Ahmaud Arbery denied a defense attorney’s request Monday to remove the Rev. Jesse Jackson left the courtroom.
Arbery had his family joined him, causing tensions among the attorneys. A motion was made for mistrial to remove Jackson from the trial. Arbery’s mother can be heard crying in public. The motion for mistrial was also rejected by Judge Timothy Walmsley.
This is the second instance in which Kevin Gough, defense attorney for Kevin Gough, has been denied permission to exclude members of the general public from the courtroom. Last week, Gough took issue with the Rev. Al Sharpton suggests it could intimidate jurors.
On Monday, Gough, who represents William “Roddie” Bryan, argued Jackson’s presence may impact his client’s right to a fair trial and asked the court to have Jackson sit in the overflow room next door.
He said, “There’s no reason these famous icons from the civil rights movement should be here.” Their presence in the courtroom will undoubtedly influence jurors, regardless of intent.
Walmsley said he was not aware Jackson was there until Gough pointed it out.
“At this point, it’s almost as if you’re just trying to continue this for purposes other than just bringing it to the court’s attention and I find that objectionable,” Walmsley said.
“I’m done talking about it, Mr. Gough,” he continued.
Walmsley also called Gough’s comments last week“reprehensible.”
He said that Gough’s remarks might have influenced his comments. It is important to recognize, everyone that what you say in the courtroom has an impact on many of these things.
Last week, Gough suggested that “high-profile members of the African American community” were “intimidating” the jury and that he did not want more Black pastors appearing in the courtroom. Gough later apologised for the comments.
Outside the courthouse, Jackson addressed media and supporters of the Arbery family saying he plans to stay the entire week. Brunswick will see more than 100 Black pastors attend a rally and march in support of Arbery’s family.
“I have a moral obligation to be here,” he said.
Monday was the seventh day of witness testimony for the prosecution in the trial of Bryan and father and son Gregory and Travis McMichael, who charged with murder and other crimes in Arbery’s killing on Feb. 23, 2020. The men were arrested two months later after cellphone video taken by Bryan was released.
On Monday, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation’s agents Jason Secrist, Lawrence Kelly and Brian Leppard (firearms and tool mark inspector Brian Leppard), Anne KislerRao (microanalyst) and Jesse Worley (latent print examiner Jesse Worley) addressed jurors.
Kisler-Rao gave evidence about the white cotton fibers that were found on Bryan’s truck’s driver’s door. She said they were similar to Arbery’s T-shirt. Worley stated that she identified the right palm print of Arbery from a printed taken from Bryan’s truck.
Later, Arbery’s father, Marcus, was visibly upset and left the courtroom as Leppard held up the 12-gauge Remington shot gun that Travis McMichael used in the fatal shooting.
Arbery’s mother, Wanda Cooper-Jones, meanwhile told reporters she became emotional when her neighbor Carol Flowers took the stand.
“Ms. Flowers’ son, Ahmaud, saw her just before he left for the last run,” she stated. “And after I had seen her stand up, I returned to that day.” Ahmaud was alive and well to her.
During Kelly’s testimony, prosecutors again played slowed-down graphic footage and more than 1,000 still images from Bryan’s video. Jurors also watched a short surveillance video from Bryan’s home showing the defendant on his porch before hopping into his truck to follow the McMichaels as they chase Arbery.
Secrist spoke to jurors about Bryan’s involvement in Arbery’s death. This interview was conducted months later. Bryan initially told a Glynn County police officer he was “chasing” Arbery the day he was killed and that he blocked, cornered and cut-off Arbery. Bryan explained to GBI agents, however that he “angled his car towards Arbery in order for him to see and take a photograph of him.”
Gough asked Secrist on Monday if it was possible Bryan was concerned for Arbery during the chase.
“If Mr. Bryan was concerned about Mr. Arbery, he would’ve stayed to the right side of the road instead of angling (his truck) to the left to box him in,” Secrist replied, adding that Bryan had multiple opportunities to call 911.
Prosecutors say Arbery did not commit any crimes and was killed because the three white men made assumptions when they saw a Black man running in their neighborhood. Defense attorneys say the McMichaels were trying to detain Arbery for police questioning and Bryan was a bystander.
Grace Hauck is a contributor to USA TODAY.