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 was joined by the civil rights leader, which sparked a heated discussion between the lawyers and led to a motion for mistrial regarding Jackson’s presence. Arbery’s mother could be heard crying in the gallery. The motion for mistrial was also rejected by Judge Timothy Walmsley.
The judge refused Kevin Gough’s second request that the court bar public members from entering 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.” I would say that regardless of whether it was intended, jurors will be affected by their presence at this courtroom.
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, everybody 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 reporters and supporters of the Arbery family, saying he plans to stay all week. A rally and march are planned for Thursday by more than 100 Black pastors.
“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 after the incident, after cellphone video taken by Bryan was released.
The Georgia Bureau of Investigation Agent Jason Seacrist was interviewed by jurors Monday. Anne KislerRao, a microanalyst, and Jesse Worley, a latent print examiner were also on hand.
Seacrist revealed to jurors his belief that Bryan was “minimizing” his involvement in Arbery’s murder during a interview several 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 told the Georgia Bureau of Investigation later that he had “angled” his vehicle toward Arbery in order to “see” him and take photos of him.
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.