BRUNSWICK, Ga. — An attorney for one of three white men standing trial in the death of Ahmaud Arbery in Georgia says he doesn't want "any more Black pastors" in the courtroom.
Attorney Kevin Gough made the comment to the trial judge Thursday, a day after the Rev. Al Sharpton sat in the back of the courtroom with Arbery's parents.
"The idea that we're going to be serially bringing these people in to sit with the victim's family, one after another — obviously, there's only so many pastors they can have," Gough said. "If their pastor is Al Sharpton right now, that's fine. But that's it; we don't want any more Black pastors coming in here — Jesse Jackson, whoever was in here earlier this week, sitting with the victim's family, trying to influence the jury in this case."
Superior Court Judge Timothy Walmsley said he barely noticed Sharpton in court.
Gough's comments represent the crucial role that race has played throughout the case. He represents William "Roddie" Bryan, who along with father and son Greg and Travis McMichael is charged with murder in Arbery's death last year.
According to prosecutors, Arbery was jogging in Brunswick, Georgia on the day of the shooting when he briefly stopped inside a home under construction.
When the McMichaels saw Arbery in the area, they armed themselves and chased after him in a pickup truck because they believed him to be responsible for a series of break-ins in the neighborhood.
Video from the incident showed the McMichaels drive up beside Arbery. A struggle followed for a few moments before Travis McMichael fired his gun, and Arbery stumbled to the ground.
Defense attorneys insist the three men committed no crimes and that Travis McMichael only fired his weapon after a "violent encounter" with Arbery. They also said they were entitled to chase after Arbery thanks to a since-repealed citizen's arrest law.
Prosecutors would not file charges in connection with the shooting for nearly three months and only after the video of the shooting became public.
Between the shooting and the video's release, the case passed between several judicial circuits and district attorneys. Some of them worked with Greg McMichael during his time working as a police officer and investigator.
One ex-prosecutor, Brunswick Judicial Circuit District Attorney Jackie Johnson, has been indicted for misconduct related to her work on the case.
The McMichaels were arrested and charged with murder on May 7, 2020. Bryan was arrested two weeks later.