Judge in Arbery case rebukes defense lawyer, calls comments ‘reprehensible’

Superior Court Judge Timothy Walmsley called out one of the defense lawyers and called his words “reprehensible” after he had called for a mistrial, among other things.

Defense attorney Kevin Gough requested a mistrial on Monday after witnessing the presence of Black pastor Jesse Jackson sitting next to Arbery’s mother, Wanda Cooper-Jones, who was sobbing. Gough said the presence of prominent Black pastors, along with Cooper-Jones’ weeping, would sway the jury towards the prosecution. “How many Black pastors does the Ahmaud Arbery family have?” Gough asked Walmsley.

The other two defense attorneys joined Gough’s mistrial request, with one saying, “These types of moments … favor the state.” However, Walmsley, who has seemingly strived to keep the trial fair, denied the request, citing that courtrooms are open to the public. “The court is not going to single out any particular individual or group of individuals as not being allowed into his courtroom as a member of the public,” Walmsley explained.

“I will say that [the attention] is directly in response, Mr. Gough, to statements you made, which I find reprehensible,” Walmsley continued. “The Colonel Sanders statement you made last week, I would suggest may be something that has influenced what is going on here.”

He closed with, “If there is a disruption, you’re welcome to call that to my attention.”

This is the second time Gough has made such a request. Last week, Reverend Al Sharpton sat-in on the trial. The following day, Gough told Walmsley, “We don’t want any more Black pastors coming in here. There is no reason for these prominent icons in the civil rights movement to be here,” before adding, “With all due respect, I would suggest, whether intended or not, that inevitably a juror is going to be influenced by their presence in the courtroom.”

Then, before getting stopped by Walmsely, he said, “If a bunch of folks came in here dressed like Colonel Sanders with white masks sitting in the back, that would be —”. The next day, Gough apologized for his remarks.

Three defendants are on trial for the murder of Ahmaud Arbery. On February 25, 2020, Arbery was jogging in a neighborhood in Brunswick, Ga. The three defendants, father and son, Greg and Travis McMichael, along with their neighbor William “Roddie” Bryan, began following Arbery in two separate cars.

They claim they believed he was involved in a string of recent break-ins and were going to make a citizen’s arrest. Eventually, they got out of their cars and surrounded him, which ended with Travis pulling the trigger of a shotgun, subsequently killing Arbery. Authorities were slow in taking action or making any arrests but, in May of 2020, a video shot by Bryan of the incident was released to the public, thus incriminating the three men.

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