‘Reprehensible bigotry’: Outcry as Ahmaud Arbery case defence lawyer says ‘no more Black pastors’

Three white men charged with murder of young African-American man last year

'We don't want any more Black pastors coming in here'

A lawyer for one of three men accused of killing Ahmaud Arbery has triggered outrage by trying to keep a famed civil rights leader from the courtroom and declaring: “We don’t want any more Black pastors in here.”

Kevin Gough, who represents William “Roddie” Bryan, claimed the presence of people such as the Rev Al Sharpton and Jessie Jackson, at the trial in Georgia could “intimidate” the jury, that is made up of 11 white jurors and 1 Black juror.

He went as far as to liken their presence to a “bunch of folks…dressed like Col Sanders with white masks”.

“If we’re going to start a precedent starting yesterday where we’re going to bring high-profile members of the African-American community into the courtroom to sit with the family during the trial in the presence of the jury I believe intimidating, that’s an attempt to pressure... or influence the jury,” said Mr Gough.

His request was denied by the judge. But the effort was widely denounced by activists, lawyers and members of the public, who said it was nothing than bare-faced racism.

“Wow. Defense attorney in the trial for the murder of Ahmaud Arbery objects to Al Sharpton’s presence, demanding, ‘We don’t want any more Black pastors in here’,” tweeted Qasim Rashid, a Virginia-based human rights lawyer and radio host. He added: “Racism is so ingrained in some folks they spew this hate w/o flinching. Reprehensible bigotry.”

Mr Rashid later told The Independent that people who were shocked by comments were not paying attention to what was happening in the US.

He said unchecked racism was embedded in many aspects of American culture and its institutions, including the criminal justice system. He said people such as defence lawyers felt a sense of entitlement.

“I'm not surprised by it. I'm devastated and pained by it, because Ahmaud Arbery deserves justice,” he said

“And hopefully the jury and the judge, and those watching, will see this racism for what it is and demand accountability in whatever way we can.”

Darlene McDonald, an activist from Utah, said she had been told about the comments by a friend but could not believe them until she listened to the clip herself.

“It was ridiculous, but it was even more ridiculous that he said it and nobody challenged it,” she said from Salt Lake City.

Defense lawyer Kevin Gough claimed Mr Sharpton’s presence could intimidate jury, made of 11 white juror and one white juror

She said it was even more troubling given that the trial was taking place with a jury that was almost entirely white. Furthermore, the trial in Georgia was taking place while a second racially charged trial was happening, that of Kyle Rittenhouse, who is charged with shooting and killing two people and injuring a third amid protests last summer.

“And you have a large chunk of people supporting him and thinking that is what they would have wanted to do,” she said. “So that is the kind of criminal justice system we are dealing with.”

Rex Chapman, a podcaster and former basketball player, tweeted: “The craziest part about defense attorney’s not wanting black pastors in the courtroom to comfort Ahmaud Arbery’s family is that these dudes killed Ahmaud for one reason only. Because he was black.”

Aldous J Pennyfarthing, tweeted: “Um, WTF? Defense Attorney in Ahmaud Arbery Killing Tells Court ‘We Don’t Want Any Other Black Pastors Coming In Here’”.

Dr SaVonni Yestanti wrote: “When Kevin Gough says, ‘There’s only so many [Black] pastors they can have,“ my question for him is this: If you feel this way, why didn't you object to the racial imbalance of the jury? Shouldn't there be only so many White jurors?”

Three white men are charged with the murder of the 25-year-old African-American, who was seen running before he was fatally shot in February 2020.

The young man’s mother, Wanda Cooper-Jones, said she was grateful for support of Rev Al Sharpton

Greg McMichael, 65, and his son Travis McMichael, 35, are accused of arming themselves and pursuing the young man in a pickup truck after he ran past their yard.

A neighbour, 52-year-old William ”Roddie“ Bryan, is alleged to have joined the chase and recorded cellphone video of Travis McMichael shooting Mr Arbery three times at close range in Brunswick in Glynn County, Georgia. They have pleaded not guilty.

Speaking outside the court on Wednesday Mr Sharpton described the shooting as a “lynching in the 21st century”.

After Mr Gough’s comments, Mr Sharpton, a veteran of civil rights cases and cable news host, told reporters he would be returning to court to help console the family as it confronted the men men accused of killing their son.

He said: “The audacity, the arrogance, to say that not only are you going to sit there and look at your son's killers every day, [but that] we're going to choose who can come and console you in the courtroom. It's like pouring salt in the wound.”

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Please enter a valid email
Please enter a valid email
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Please enter your first name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
Please enter your last name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
You must be over 18 years old to register
You must be over 18 years old to register
Opt-out-policy
You can opt-out at any time by signing in to your account to manage your preferences. Each email has a link to unsubscribe.

By clicking ‘Create my account’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in