Friday marked the end of the first week of testimony in Ahmaud Abery’s murder trial. There was much controversy over comments made by a defense lawyer. “We don’t want any more Black pastors coming in here”In a case which has been racially charged ever since its inception.
Kevin Gough representing defendant William was reintroduced to the court after a lunch break. “Roddie”Bryan Jr. spoke about civil rights activist, the Rev. Al Sharpton. Gough suggested Sharpton’s presence may be intimidating to jurors.
“There’s only so many pastors they can have,”Gough, “If they have Pastor Al Sharpton right now, then that’s fine. That’s it. We don’t want anymore Black pastors coming in here or Jessie Jackson, or whoever was in here earlier this week, sitting with the victim’s family trying to influence a jury in this case,”The lawyer told the court.
Gough was accused of making racist remarks on social media. On Friday he issued an apology of sorts, saying in a statement, “My apologies to anyone who might have inadvertently been offended.”
Gough made remarks to the court outside of the presence jurors. He was unhappy with what he called “A precedent, where we’re going to bring high-profile members of the African American community into the courtroom to sit with the family during the trial in the presence of the jury.
“That’s my opinion. It’s intimidating.” he said.
The three defendants, and 11 members of the jury, are all white. Sharpton, who has supported Arbery’s parents, sat in the back of the courtroom Thursday. The judge said he had been made aware in advance of Sharpton’s presence, and that it caused no disruption in the proceedings.
Sharpton, in a statement said Gough’s remarks showed “arrogant insensitivity.”
“I respect the defense attorney doing his job,” Sharpton said, “but this is beyond defending your client, it is insulting the family of the victim.”
Arbery, 25, who is Black, was shot to death in February 2020 as he ran through a suburban Glynn County neighborhood on a Sunday morning. Father and son Greg McMichael, 65, Travis McMichael, 35, and neighbor William Bryan, 52, are all accused of murder.
Lead prosecutor Linda Dunikoski told the jury last Friday during opening statements: “All three of these defendants did everything they did based on assumptions, not on facts, not on evidence.”
Arbery’s mother wept as Dunikoski presented an extended version mobile-phone footage that Bryan had taken. In which Arbery is shown being shot three times, Travis McMichael appears to have captured Arbery. The video was the mother’s first time seeing it. They pleaded guilty to Arbery, and claimed they pursued him because they believed that he was responsible.
Greg McMichael said that his son was acting in self-defense. Both the defense and prosecution attorneys claimed in court that their clients were trying Arbery arrests on citizens. Travis McMichael, the lawyer for his client, stated that he was afraid for his life after he fired his shotgun.
Earlier this week, officers with the Glynn County Police Department detailed the initial statements after Arbery’s death from the accused. One of the first officers on the scene stated that he did NOT attempt CPR on Arbery, as he was not medically qualified to do so.
The trial is expected continue for at most another week.