Judge Timothy R. Walmsley has refused a mistrial request from attorneys for the three white men accused of killing Ahmaud Arbery, rejecting claims made by one of the lawyers, Kevin Gough, that prominent Black pastors should not be allowed in the courtroom because they unfairly influence the jury, reports the New York Times. The judge told Gough that some of his statements have been “reprehensible,” specifically mentioning a moment last week when Gough wondered aloud what it would be like “if a bunch of folks came in here dressed like Colonel Sanders with white masks sitting in the back.”
In addition to the request for a mistrial, Walmsley has rejected Gough’s call for a ban on Black preachers in court and a motion to have protesters moved away from the area directly outside the courthouse. Gough, who represents the defendant William Bryan, recently unleashed a wave of condemnation when he declared that “we don’t want any more Black pastors coming in here” after the Rev. Al Sharpton spent a day observing the trial in the courtroom’s public gallery. When Rev. Jesse L. Jackson came to the courtroom and sat between Arbery’s parents, which prompted a second effort from Gough to ban the prominent civil rights leaders from the proceedings. Gough was joined in his mistrial request by lawyers for the two other defendants, Travis McMichael and his father, Gregory, amid skepticism over whether this trial can be considered fair.