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Staggering racism of defense attorney in Ahmaud Arbery trial on full display

A defense attorney claimed that having "high-profile members of the African American community” in the courtroom was “intimidating,” drawing swift backlash.

A defense attorney for William Bryan, one of the three men charged with murder in the death of Ahmaud Arbery, complained to the judge Thursday that he didn’t want “any more Black pastors” sitting in the courtroom. The unnerving outburst came a day after the Rev. Al Sharpton was seen sitting with Arbery’s family during the trial. 

 “There’s only so many pastors they can have,” the attorney, Kevin Gough, told the court. “If their pastor’s Al Sharpton right now, that’s fine. But then that’s it. We don’t want any more Black pastors coming in here ... sitting with the victim’s family, trying to influence a jury in this case.”

Gough claimed the presence of “high-profile members of the African American community” in the courtroom was “intimidating” and could “pressure and influence” the jury. 

In response, Judge Timothy Walmsley said he was “not going to blanketly exclude members of the public from this courtroom.”

Gough’s blatantly racist objection was unsurprising coming from a lawyer whose defense rests on a Civil War-era citizen’s arrest law that effectively gave white people dominion over Black people. It’s fitting that an attorney representing a man who saw a Black man who was jogging as a threat also carries his own apparent angst toward Black people. Gough’s racist request, as well as his audacious belief that he can tell people how many pastors they can have, were denounced online, including in a statement from Sharpton, the leader of the National Action Network and an MSNBC host. 

“The arrogant insensitivity of attorney Kevin Gough in asking a judge to bar me or any minister of the family’s choice underscores the disregard for the value of the human life lost and the grieving of a family in need [of] spiritual and community support,” Sharpton said

Three men — Bryan, Travis McMichael and his father, Gregory McMichael — face murder charges for pursuing and killing Arbery in a southern Georgia neighborhood in February 2020. All three of them face federal hate crime charges, as well.

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