The defense attorney for one of three white men on trial in Georgia for murdering Ahmaud Arbery apologized Friday, a day after he said he didn’t want “any more black pastors” in court after the Rev. Al Sharpton sat with the slain man’s family.
“My apologies to anyone who might have inadvertently been offended,” attorney Kevin Gough, who represents William “Roddie” Bryan, told the judge before testimony began for the day.
“I will let the court know that if my statements yesterday were overly broad, I will follow up with a more specific motion on Monday putting those concerns in the proper context.”
Gough said he’d been “asked to address some comments” but did not elaborate on who had told him to. The judge clarified that the court hadn’t asked him to apologize.
The defense attorney sparked outrage Thursday after telling Judge Timothy R. Walmsley he was concerned that Sharpton’s presence in court this week was an attempt to intimidate the jury in the high-profile case.
“There’s only so many pastors they can have. If their pastor is Al Sharpton right now, then that’s fine, but then that’s it,” Gough told the judge when the jury was out of the courtroom.
“We don’t want any more black pastors coming in here or others, Jesse Jackson, whoever was in here earlier, sitting with the victim’s family trying to influence the jury in this case.”
Gough said he believed that letting “high-profile members of the African American community” sit alongside Arbery’s family “could be — consciously or unconsciously — an attempt to pressure or influence the jury.”
Sharpton had held a prayer vigil outside the courthouse Wednesday before joining Arbery’s parents and their lawyers inside to listen to testimony.
Gough told the judge he didn’t realize Sharpton had been in the courtroom until after court had adjourned for the day.
“You weren’t even aware of it until later?” the judge said. “I’m not sure what we’re doing.”
Sharpton later slammed Gough’s comments, saying his attendance wasn’t disruptive and he had been invited by 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 of spiritual and community support,” Sharpton said in a statement.
He has vowed to continue supporting Arbery’s family “inside and outside” the courtroom as the trial continues.
Civil rights attorney Ben Crump tweeted that he would bring “100 black pastors” to pray with the Arbery family outside court next week.
“It is not illegal for black pastors to support the parents of Ahmaud Arbery or any other black victims,” Crump tweeted in response to Gough’s comments.
Gough’s client, Bryan, is accused of joining father and son Gregory and Travis McMichael when they chased down 25-year-old Arbery after seeing him running through their Satilla Shores neighborhood in February 2020.
Bryan filmed the younger McMichael shooting Arbery three times at close range with a shotgun in the middle of the street.