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Crime News Black Lives Matter

Defense Attorney Tries To Remove Rev. Jesse Jackson From Ahmaud Arbery Trial

The Rev. Jesse Jackson called attorney Kevin Gough's request, which was denied by the judge, a "diversion" during an emotional day of testimony.

By Jill Sederstrom
Rev Jesse Jackson Ahmaud Arbery Trial Family Ap

An attorney for one of three white men charged with killing Ahmaud Arbery on the street of a suburban Georgia neighborhood tried to have the Rev. Jesse Jackson removed from the courtroom Monday after he showed up to support the Arbery family.

Defense attorney Kevin Gough, who represents William “Roddie” Bryan asked Judge Timothy Walmsley to remove Jackson over fears that his presence could influence the jury.

“He is, Your Honor, we all know, an icon in the civil rights movement, not just a witness to it, he’s the personification of it,” Gough said, according to Fox News. “In the context of this trial, we object to his presence in this courtroom.”

Gough is the same attorney who made headlines last week after saying he didn’t want “any more Black pastors” in the courtroom after the Rev. Al Sharpton sat with the Arbery family in the gallery.

“How many pastors does the Arbery family have?” Gough asked Monday, out of earshot of the jury. “Which pastor is next? Is Raphael Warnock going to be the next person appearing this afternoon?”

Warnock is a notable figure in Black history after becoming Georgia’s first Black senator earlier this year.

Gough criticized the Arbery family for distributing some of their apportioned space to the civil rights leaders.

“The seats in the public gallery of the courtroom are not like courtside seats of the Lakers game,” Gough said, according to NPR.

Before making the arguments to remove Jackson, Gough had requested earlier in the day that the judge order bailiffs to document and record the movements of those in attendance at the trial.

Walmsley dismissed the motion, saying he did not plan to place any limits on pastors sitting in the courtroom, but Gough continued to insist that Jackson be removed.

"At this point, I'm not exactly sure what you're doing," Walmsley said. "I have already ruled on this court's position with regard to the gallery. And with all candor, I was not even aware that Rev. Jackson was in the courtroom, until you started your motion."

Walmsley went on to tell Gough that it was “almost as if you’re just trying to continue this [request] for purposes other than just bringing it to the court’s attention, and I find that objectionable.”

Walmsley later added that he was “done talking about it.”

The day of testimony took an emotional turn when prosecutors called Arbery’s neighbor, Carol Flowers, to the stand and introduced a black-and-white photo of a smiling Arbery, Fox News reports.

Upon seeing the photo, Arbery’s mother, Wanda Cooper-Jones began to cry and Jackson could be seen comforting her by putting his arm around her shoulders.

The judge called for a short recess.

Gough called for a mistrial after noting the emotional outcry and making reference to the racial justice protests going on outside the courtroom, arguing that the three defendants “can no longer get a fair trial,” NPR reports.  

Attorneys for Greg and Travis McMichael also joined the motion, but it was ultimately struck down by Walmsley who noted that “emotions are neither unreasonable nor unexpected during murder trials,” Reuters reports.

Upon leaving the courthouse Monday, Jackson called the defense’s attempts to remove him from the trial a “diversion” and said he planned to attend the trial for the rest of the week.

"They have a weak case," Jackson said while standing with Arbery’s family, according to Fox News. "Three men killed an innocent unarmed boy."

Prosecutors have accused the McMichaels of chasing down Arbery in their pickup truck while he jogged along the street, cornering him “like a rat” and shooting him to death as Bryan followed in his own vehicle and filmed the deadly altercation.

The McMicheals defense attorneys have argued that the father and son were trying to make a citizen’s arrest and that Travis McMichael killed Arbery in self-defense.

Firearms expert Brian Leppard also testified Monday that after conducting a muzzle-to-target test he determined that Travis McMichael fired the shotgun while it was either in contact or near contact with Arbery, CNN reports.

“The end of the shotgun was very close to that fabric when it was fired,” he said.

Jurors also viewed enhanced videos of the shooting captured on Bryan’s cell phone, including a frame-by-frame still version with more than 1,000 images of Arbery’s final moments.