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Ahmaud Arbery trial: Defense lawyer asks judge to eject Rev. Jesse Jackson from courtroom

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A defense lawyer for one of three White men charged in the slaying of Ahmaud Arbery asked the judge Monday to bar Rev. Jesse Jackson from the courtroom over concerns he could sway 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,” said Kevin Gough, an attorney for William “Roddie” Bryan, outside the earshot of jurors. “In the context of this trial, we object to his presence in this courtroom.”

The Rev. Jesse Jackson, sits with Ahmaud Arbery’s mother, Wanda Cooper-Jones, during the trial of Greg McMichael, his son, Travis McMichael, and a neighbor, William "Roddie" Bryan in the Glynn County Courthouse, in Brunswick, Georgia, on Nov. 15, 2021. The three are charged with the February 2020 slaying of 25-year-old Ahmaud Arbery. (Stephen B. Morton/Pool via REUTERS)

Just last week, Gough faced backlash for asking Judge Timothy Walmsley to prevent any more “Black pastors” from attending the Glynn County Superior Court trial after Rev. Al Sharpton was spotted with Arbery’s parents in the gallery.

“How many pastors does the Arbery family have?” Gough asked the judge Monday, as Jackson stared blankly from his seat. “Which pastor is next? Is Raphael Warnock going to be the next person appearing this afternoon?”

Family attorney Benjamin Crump, right, speaks as Marcus Arbery, second from right, his former wife Wanda Cooper, left, and the Rev. Al Sharpton listen outside the Glynn County courthouse, Wednesday, Nov. 10, 2021, in Brunswick, Ga. Rev. Sharpton led a prayer and spoke out against injustice during the noon break in the trial of three men charged with murder in Ahmaud Abery’s shooting death.  
(AP Photo/Lewis M. Levine Coastal)

Warnock made history earlier this year becoming Georgia’s first Black senator after besting Republican incumbent Kelly Loeffler.

“There is no reason for these prominent icons in the civil rights movement to be here,” said Gough. “The seats in the public gallery of a courtroom are not like courtside seats at a Lakers game.” The judge, visibly annoyed, rejected Gough’s request and said he was “done talking about it.”

Gough’s client, Bryan — alongside Greg McMichael and his son Travis McMichael — is charged with murder, aggravated assault and false imprisonment for the shooting death of Arbery Feb. 23, 2020, in southern Georgia. Bryan took cellphone footage of the fatal encounter.

This combo of booking photos provided by the Glynn County, Ga., Detention Center, shows from left, Travis McMichael, his father Gregory McMichael, and William "Roddie" Bryan Jr. 
(Glynn County Detention Center via AP)

Prosecutors called Arbery’s neighbor, Carol Flowers, to introduce a black-and-white photo of the slain 25-year-old smiling broadly and wearing a baseball cap that was taken approximately eight years before his death. The photo elicited weeping from the gallery and prompted the judge to call for a short break.

One of Greg McMichael’s defense lawyers, Laura Hogue, noted that during the emotional display several jurors had looked over at Arbery’s family sympathetically and saw them “comforted by someone with whom respect abounds” referring to Jackson.

Gough made a motion for a mistrial, arguing that the proceedings have been “sufficiently infected” by emotional outbursts and the presence of revered civil rights icons in the courtroom. Attorneys for the other defendants joined the motion, which the judge swiftly denied.

Ahmaud Arbery

Jackson briefly spoke outside the courthouse calling the attempt to eject him a “diversion.”

“They have a weak case,” he said, flanked by the victim’s father, Marcus Arbery Sr. “Three men killed an innocent unarmed boy.” He told reporters he planned to attend the proceedings the rest of the week calling it a “constitutional right.”

The killing unfolded on a Sunday afternoon after Greg McMichael spotted Arbery running past his house.

Superior Court Judge Timothy Walmsley speaks during the trial for Ahmaud Arbery’s shooting death at the Glynn County Courthouse, in Brunswick, Georgia, on Nov. 9, 2021. (Stephen B. Morton/Pool via REUTERS)

Suspecting he was a burglar, he and his son, Travis McMichael, grabbed their guns and pursued him in a white pickup through their Satilla Shores neighborhood. Bryan joined the chase in his own truck.

Greg McMichael told investigators that after they had Arbery “cornered like a rat” the young man lunged for his son’s shotgun. Travis McMichael then blasted Arbery twice in the chest.

The defense has argued that the men acted in self-defense, while prosecutors contend they had no legitimate grounds to pursue Arbery.

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