Imagine you are defending someone who chased and shot down a Black man, your line of defense is that he was following an old slave catcher’s law, and you try to bar the Rev. Al Sharpton out of the courtroom.
Like just imagine you are that audacious. That arrogant. That bigoted.
The only one who doesn’t have to imagine doing this is Kevin Gough, the attorney representing William “Roddie” Bryan, one of the three men charged for killing Black jogger Ahmaud Arbery last February. He actually said it in court on Wednesday.
And he didn’t just stop at wanting Sharpton gone from the Glynn County, Georgia courtroom.
“We don’t want any more Black pastors coming in here,” Gough said to Superior Court Judge Timothy Walmsley when the jury was out of the room. According to NBC News, he said that the family bringing Sharpton, or any “high-profile members of the African American community” is intimidating for the jury. Rev. Jesse Jackson had also joined Arbery’s family earlier in the week.
Gough said that “to his knowledge,” Sharpton doesn’t have a church in Glynn County, Georgia, where the trial is being held, “and never has.”
“We have school board members, we have county commissioners, 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. “And if their pastor right now is Al Sharpton, that’s fine. Then that’s it. We don’t want any more Black pastors coming in here ... trying to influence the jury in this case.”
Sharpton, the leader of the National Action Network and an MSNBC host, said in a statement that his attendance Wednesday was not disruptive in any way and was at the invitation of Arbery’s family, who have stated that publicly.
Another lawyer, Jason Sheffield, said he didn’t think there were any distractions caused by Sharpton sitting in the back row. The Associated Press reports that Sheffield represents Travis McMichael, who is accused alongside his father, Greg McMichael, and Bryan.
And get this, Gough himself didn’t even know that the pastor was there until after the court had adjourned.
“You weren’t even aware of it until later?” the judge said, according to AP. “I’m not sure what we’re doing.”
Outside of the courtroom that afternoon, Sharpton held a prayer vigil and news conference before joining the Arbery family for the trial testimony. Sharpton called what happened to Arbery a lynching and said that the lawyers request was insulting to the victim’s family.
After the trial Sharpton said what we’re all thinking: “I respect the defense attorney doing his job,” he said, according to AP, “but this is beyond defending your client, it is insulting the family of the victim.”
I mean, come on, you didn’t even notice him in the back row with a face mask on.
“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, according to NBC.