Defense attorney in Ahmaud Arbery murder trial apologizes for comments about Black pastors

(NEW YORK) — A defense attorney in the Ahmaud Arbery murder trial apologized a day after he said there shouldn’t be “any more Black pastors” in the Glynn County, Georgia, courtroom, as a representative for Arbery’s family called for his removal from the case.

Addressing Superior Court Judge Timothy Walmsley Thursday while the jury wasn’t present, defense attorney Kevin Gough said he took major offense to learning after the fact that Rev. Al Sharpton had been in the courtroom with the Arbery family Wednesday. Gough called Sharpton’s presence “improper,” “intimidating to the jury” and “an attempt to influence.”

“We have all kinds of pastors in this town, over 100. And the idea that we’re going to be serially bringing these people in to sit with the victim’s family, one after another, obviously there’s only so many pastors they can have,” Gough said. “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.”

Walmsley told Gough to “not overstate what’s going on here” because “this will become a distraction that we’re going to waste a bunch of time on.”

The trial resumed Friday with a brief apology from Gough, who said his statements had been “overly broad.”

“My apologies to anyone who might’ve been inadvertently offended,” he said.

Gough said he had been asked to address the issue, to which Walmsley responded that it wasn’t the court that had asked that.

Gough is representing William “Roddie” Bryan, who filmed Gregory McMichael and his son, Travis McMichael, chasing down Arbery while the 25-year-old Black man was out for a jog last year. Arbery was fatally shot during the confrontation.

In response to Gough’s comments, Sharpton is calling on clergy to join him and Arbery’s family outside the courthouse on Nov. 18.

“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 in a statement Friday.

Ben Crump, an attorney for Arbery’s family, tweeted Friday morning that “we are going to bring 100 Black pastors to pray with the family next week.”

“It is not illegal for Black pastors to support the parents of Ahmaud Arbery or any other Black victims,” he said.

Barbara Arnwine, a representative for Arbery’s family, called the comments “absolutely inappropriate” and “horrible behavior” from a lawyer.

“He really should not be part of this case, it’s very, very disturbing,” she told reporters outside the courtroom Friday.

“We’re gonna bring a whole lot of Black pastors over the week. Get ready,” she added.

Defense attorney Jason Sheffield, who is representing Travis McMichael, also called Gough’s comments “asinine.”

“Everyone is welcome, come one, come all,” he told reporters during lunch recess.

The trial started last Friday under a cloud of controversy after a jury comprised of 11 white people and one Black person was selected, prompting an objection from prosecutors that the selection process, which took nearly three weeks, ended up racially biased.

The high-profile trial is expected to last into Thanksgiving week, Sheffield said.

The three defendants have pleaded not guilty to charges of murder, aggravated assault and criminal attempt to commit false imprisonment.

ABC News’ Bill Hutchinson, Janice McDonald and Alex Presha contributed to this report.

 

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