A defense attorney representing one of the men charged with murdering Ahmaud Arbery said on Thursday that “we don’t want any more Black pastors coming in here,” objecting to the presence of Rev. Al Sharpton at the court proceeding the day before.
Kevin Gough, who is representing William “Roddie” Bryan, one of three white men accused of killing Arbery, a Black jogger, in Brunswick, Ga., in February 2020, told the judge he didn’t want “high-profile members of the African American community” in the courtroom.
He argued it would intimidate jurors and deprive his client of a fair trial.
“I believe that’s intimidating, and it’s an attempt to pressure — could be consciously or unconsciously — an attempt to pressure the jury,” Gough said. “There’s only so many pastors they can have. If their pastor is Al Sharpton right now, that’s fine. But then that’s it. We don’t want any more Black pastors coming in here.”
Sharpton was in the courtroom on Wednesday, when he was sitting with the family of Arbery. After Gough’s comments, Sharpton told news outlet TMZ that the lawyer’s comments were “an arrogant display of insensitivity.”
“Now (you) tell them they can’t have the ministers of their choice to sit there and console them, while they are sitting there looking at those who murdered their son?” he said. “Now you have not only taken their son, you want to take those who console them.”
Bryan has been charged with felony murder along with Gregory McMichael and his son, Travis McMichael, in a high-profile case that began on Nov. 5. The death of Arbery last year helped ignite a wave of protests against police brutality and racism.
Bryan and the McMichaels, who are white, confronted Arbery in a southeastern neighborhood in Georgia after suspecting him of involvement in a string of burglaries.
Arbery’s family say the 25-year-old Black man was jogging at the time. In an ensuing conflict caught on video by Bryan, Travis McMichael shot Arbery. McMichael is claiming self-defense in the trial.