Lawyer says Al Sharpton, black pastors could intimidate jury

Lawyer says Al Sharpton, black pastors could intimidate jury

A defense attorney for one of three white men on trial for murdering Ahmaud Arbery told the judge Thursday he had an issue with Rev. Al Sharpton and other black pastors sitting with the victim’s family in court because it could intimidate the jury.

Attorney Kevin Gough, who represents William “Roddie” Bryan, asked the judge to step in after he learned Sharpton had been sitting with Arbery’s family in the Georgia courtroom a day earlier.

“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 Judge Timothy R. Walmsley.

“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 was concerned that allowing a precedent of “high-profile members of the African American community” to sit alongside the victim’s family “could be — consciously or unconsciously — an attempt to pressure or influence the jury.”

Ahmaud Arbery
25-year-old Ahmaud Arbery was shot dead while jogging through a neighborhood in Brunswick, Georgia.

Rev. Sharpton held a prayer vigil outside the Glynn County Courthouse Wednesday, saying: “What has happened in this case, is a lynching in the 21st century.”

The defense attorney did not put a motion forward asking the judge to ban anyone from the courtroom Thursday, but asked the court to “take appropriate steps.”

Judge Walmsley shot Gough down, telling him “I’m not going to blanketly exclude members of the public from this court room” if they aren’t being a distraction.

Reverend Al Sharpton with Abery family at vigil for Ahmaud Arbery.
Reverend Al Sharpton supports Ahmaud Arbery’s father outside of the courthouse on November 10.
USA Today Network/Sipa USA
Rev. Al Sharpton stands with Marcus Arbery outside the Glynn County Courthouse
Al Sharpton is a civil rights activist and Baptist minister from Brooklyn.
USA Today Network/Sipa USA

“I’m not going to do anything about it. Nobody was even aware he was in here. I’m not even sure the jury would have seen him sitting there. If you weren’t even aware of it until later, I don’t know what we’re doing here,” Judge Walmsley said.

Prosecutors said they had nothing to do with Rev. Sharpton sitting with Arbery’s family in the court room.

Gough’s client, Roddie 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.

Family attorney Benjamin Crump speaks outside of the Glynn County courthouse November 10 with Arbery family, Rev. Al Sharpton.
Family attorney Benjamin Crump speaks outside of the Glynn County courthouse on November 10 with the Arbery family and Rev. Al Sharpton.

Earlier on Thursday, jurors were shown surveillance video of Arbery — who hadn’t yet been identified — walking around a vacant property owned by Larry English shortly before he was chased down by the three men.

They were also shown several surveillance clips of Arbery at the property in 2019, as well as other people wandering through the vacant lot in the months prior to the deadly shooting.

In a video deposition recorded prior to the trial starting but only showed to jurors on Thursday, English testified that the surveillance cameras on his property sent videos to his phone.

Image from video posted on Twitter of Ahmaud Arbery being shot, falling to ground.
The three men, who have all pleaded not guilty to murder, weren’t arrested until two months after the fatal shooting.

Several 911 calls English made about trespassers were also played to the court, including one made after Arbery was spotted there in 2019.

“I got a trespasser,” English told the operator, saying he could see on camera a “colored guy” with tattoos on his arms and curly hair and who may have been drunk or on drugs as he was “plundering around” the property.

In the deposition, English said he decided soon after that it was more likely the man was not intoxicated but moving cautiously in the dark in a way that looked odd on the night-vision video.

English had shared the clips of Arbery on his property with some of his neighbors prior to the shooting.

Rev. Al Sharpton, Marcus Arbery, right, wipes tears at vigil outside of courthouse.
The jury itself has been the subject of controversy after defense attorneys struck down 11 out of 12 black potential jurors, leaving just one black juror and 11 white jurors to reach a verdict.
AP / Terry Dickson

The McMichaels have said they knew about the reports of an unknown black man roaming around English’s property when Arbery ran by their driveway and started to pursue him.

All three men, who have pleaded not guilty to murder, claim they were trying to conduct a lawful citizen’s arrest of Arbery when Travis McMichael shot the jogger at close range minutes into the pursuit.

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