Judge in Ahmaud Arbery case calls defense remarks about Black pastors 'reprehensible'

Judge Timothy Walmsley.
(Image credit: Stephen B. Morton-Pool/Getty Images)

The judge overseeing the trial of the men charged with murdering Ahmaud Arbery, a 25-year-old Black man who was shot and killed while jogging through a Georgia neighborhood, rejected a defense request on Monday for a mistrial.

Greg McMichael, his son Travis McMichael, and their neighbor William "Roddie" Bryan have been charged with murder, false imprisonment, and aggravated assault; they claim to have been acting in self defense. During court on Monday, Arbery's mother, Wanda Cooper-Jones, began to weep, and the jury was quickly ushered out of the room. Rev. Jesse Jackson was sitting with Cooper-Jones and the rest of the Arbery family, and the defense attorneys requested a mistrial after claiming that Jackson's presence and Cooper-Jones' crying could unfairly sway the jurors.

Last Thursday, Bryan's attorney, Kevin Gough, complained about the Rev. Al Sharpton sitting with Arbery's parents in the courtroom, saying, "We don't want any more Black pastors coming in here," claiming this was an attempt "to influence a jury in this case." Judge Timothy Walmsley told Gough he will not "blanketly exclude members of the public from this courtroom." Dozens of Black pastors have since said they will form "a wall of prayer" outside of the courtroom later this week.

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Walmsley told Gough on Monday that people are coming to court "directly in response ... to statements you made, which I find reprehensible." The judge also said he isn't "exactly sure" why Gough keeps bringing up the pastors, adding, "with all candor, I was not even aware that Rev. Jackson was in the courtroom until you started your motion."

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