The judge presiding over the murder trial of three White men accused of killing Ahmaud Arbery denied a defense request on Monday to bar civil rights leader Rev. Jesse Jackson from the courtroom.
Judge Timothy Walmsley turned down defense attorney Kevin Gough’s request to have the civil rights icon removed from the gallery, rejecting his argument that Jackson’s presence might “intimidate” the jury.
Walmsley rebuked Gough, who represents defendant William “Roddie” Bryan, for continuing to try and have viewers removed from the gallery after similarly turning down his request last week to bar the Rev. Al Sharpton from the courtroom.
In that instance, the judge gave permission for Sharpton to sit in the courtroom as long as he didn’t create a distraction. Gough later issued an apology for saying “Black pastors” in the courtroom were seeking to influence the jury by sitting with Arbery’s family.
The three defendants are accused of running down Arbery in their trucks, boxing him in and shooting him to death on February 23, 2020. Photo courtesy family of Ahmaud Arbery/UPI
After again objecting to the presence of someone in the gallery on Monday, Walmsley appeared to lose his patience.
“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,” the judge said.
“I have indicated the court’s position, the position hasn’t changed. At this point it’s almost as if you’re trying to continue this for purposes other than just bringing it to the court’s attention, and I find that objectionable.”
Also on Monday, Walmsley turned down a defense motion for a mistrial after Arbery’s mother, Wanda Cooper-Jones, could be heard weeping in the gallery. It was another tense moment on the seventh day of witness testimony in the murder trials of Bryan, Gregory McMichael and his son Travis McMichael in Brunswick, Ga.
Bryan and the McMichaels are accused of running down Arbery in their trucks, boxing him in and shooting him to death on Feb. 23, 2020. The three each face charges of malice murder, felony murder, aggravated assault, false imprisonment and criminal attempt to commit false imprisonment.
Civil rights activists have decried the shooting as racially motivated, arguing that Black men like Arbery are not safe even going for a jog in their residential neighborhood.
The McMichaels and Bryan, all of whom are White, said they chased and shot Arbery because they suspected him of theft.
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