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Judge DENIES request for mistrial at Ahmaud Arbery murder trial

The judge presiding over Ahmaud Arbery’s murder trial denied the defense’s motion for a mistrial on Monday.

The motion was filed after civil rights leader Rev. Jesse Jackson was seen sitting with Arbery’s parents in court and  comforting his mother, Wanda Cooper-Jones, during witness testimony.

Attorney Kevin Gough, who is representing accused William ‘Roddie’ Bryan Jr., alleged that the presence of high-profile pastors and other emotional outbursts in the courtroom haven’t allowed his client to have a fair trial. 

‘We contend that the atmosphere for the trial, both inside and outside the courtroom, at this point, has deprived Mr Bryan of the right to a fair trial,’ he said.

The motion follows numerous complaints by Gough about the presence of black pastors in the courtroom, which he argued could influence the jury. 

Judge Timothy Walmsley (right) denied defense attorney Kevin Gough’s (left) motion for a mistrial Monday. Gough alleged the presence of high-profile pastors and other emotional outbursts in the courtroom haven’t allowed his client to have a fair trial

Civil rights leader Rev. Jesse Jackson is holding a prayer vigil Monday morning at the Georgia courthouse where the seventh day of Ahmaud Arbery's (pictured) killing trial is underway

Civil rights leader Rev. Jesse Jackson is holding a prayer vigil Monday morning at the Georgia courthouse where the seventh day of Ahmaud Arbery’s (pictured) killing trial is underway

During his motion for a mistrial, Gough cited concerns of alleged nonverbal communications between civil rights activists and the jury, as well as between the jury and victim’s family.

‘We have had civil rights icons sitting in here – in what the civil rights community contends is a ‘test case for civil rights in the United States’ – eyeballing these jurors,’ he said.

‘We have had several instances during jury selection of nonverbal communications between the victim’s family and jurors, or from jurors to the victim’s family.’

Gough also claimed that there were several emotional outbursts in the courtroom and that the front of the courthouse was not secure. 

Brunswick Superior Court Judge Timothy Walmsley denied the motion for mistrial, calling Gough’s comments ‘reprehensible’. 

Walmsley alleged that many of the statements Gough made, including one he made last week about Kentucky Fried Chicken founder Colonel Sanders, has impacted what is taking place in court.

‘In response, Mr Gough, to statements you made – which I find reprehensible, the Colonel Sanders statement you made last week, I would suggest may be something that has influenced what is going on here,’ the judge said.

He warned both the state and defense ‘your words in this courtroom have impact on a lot of what is going on’ inside and outside the courtroom. 

Walmsley added: ‘My measured response right now is to balance all of that and try to move forward with the trial. I’m not granting a mistrial at this point.’

Jackson said outside the courthouse during a break in proceedings Monday that he planned to attend the trial all week, calling it ‘a constitutional right and a moral obligation’

 

Jackson also claimed that the motion for mistrial was the defense's attempt at a 'diversion' (Pictured: Jackson walking with Arbery's father, Marcus Arbery, on his left)

Jackson also claimed that the motion for mistrial was the defense’s attempt at a ‘diversion’ (Pictured: Jackson walking with Arbery’s father, Marcus Arbery, on his left)

Jackson said outside the courthouse during a break in proceedings that he planned to attend the trial all week, calling it ‘a constitutional right and a moral obligation’.

‘They’re looking for diversion,’ he told 11 Alive of the defense lawyers. 

Gough’s mistrial request was joined by the two other defense teams. Franklin Hogue, an attorney for Greg McMichael, said he fears the defendants aren’t receiving a fair trial in the community.

Jason Sheffiled, one of Travis McMichaels’ attorneys, said the weeping caused some jurors to look and see Jackson, an icon ‘whose autographed picture hung in my mother’s loft for decades.’

‘Several jurors did look over. Their faces changed (showing) the emotion and sympathy they felt,’ Sheffield told the judge. 

Jackson told reporters that it was Arbery’s mother who wept ‘very quietly’ in the courtroom after prosecutors showed a photo of her son to a witness.  

The call for a mistrial came after the pastor attended court with Arbery’s parents on Monday, despite prior objections from the defense. The group was seated behind accused shooter Travis McMichael’s mother as the murder trial continued. 

Gough, before calling for a mistrial, verbally objected to Jackson’s presence.

‘In the context of this trial, we object to his presence in the public gallery,’ he said. ‘Which pastor is next? Is Raphael Warnock going to be the next person appearing this afternoon? We don’t know.’

He added: ‘There is no reason for these prominent icons in the civil rights movement to be here. With all due respect, I would suggest, whether intended or not, that inevitably a juror is going to be influenced by their presence in the courtroom.’ 

Walmsley declined to ask Jackson to leave.

‘The court is not going to single out any particular individual or group of individuals as not being allowed into his courtroom as a member of the public,’ Walmsley said. ‘If there is a disruption, you’re welcome to call that to my attention.’ 

Rev. Jesse Jackson (center) sits with Ahmaud Arbery's mother, Wanda Cooper-Jones (center right) during the trial

Rev. Jesse Jackson (center) sits with Ahmaud Arbery’s mother, Wanda Cooper-Jones (center right) during the trial

Rev. Jesse Jackson (left) is seated with Ahamud Arbery's mother, Wanda Cooper-Jones (right), in court on Monday. A defense attorney has objected to Jackson's presence

Rev. Jesse Jackson (left) is seated with Ahamud Arbery’s mother, Wanda Cooper-Jones (right), in court on Monday. A defense attorney has objected to Jackson’s presence

Last week, Gough complained when the Rev. Al Sharpton joined Arbery’s mother, Wanda Cooper-Jones, and father, Marcus Arbery Sr., inside the Glynn County courtroom. 

Gough said he feared Sharpton was trying to influence the jury, saying: ‘We don’t want any more black pastors coming in here or other Jesse Jackson, whoever was in here earlier this week, sitting with the victim’s family trying to influence a jury in this case.’

However, Jackson alleged he was ‘invited there last week by the defense attorney.’ 

Jason Sheffield, attorney for defendant Travis McMichael, called Gough’s comment ‘totally asinine. Ridiculous,’ and said, ‘In no way do we want to exclude anybody from this process.’   

Sharpton has said he will be joined by more than 100 black pastors at the courthouse on Thursday.

Meanwhile, Georgia Bureau of Investigation Agent Jason Seacrist, who interviewed defendant William ‘Roddie’ Bryan Jr. on at least two occasions, returned to the witness stand Monday and was questioned by a defense lawyer about his interviews with the accused. 

Gough questioned Seacrist about Bryan’s claims that Arbery tried to get into his truck during the chase. Investigators testified they found Arbery’s fingerprints on the truck near one of the door handles.

‘Is it fair to say the first identifiable crime Mr. Bryan personally witnessed that day would be Mr. Arbery trying to get in his truck?’ Gough asked.

Seacrist replied: ‘Unless you discount the fact that somebody was trying to chase Mr. Arbery down while he was legally running, jogging in the road.’ 

The defense began their cross-examination of Seacrist late Friday before court adjourned for the weekend. At that time, he testified that Bryan, who videotaped the Arbery pursuit from his pickup truck, had an ‘instinct’ that Arbery had committed a crime. 

‘Because I figured he had done something wrong. I didn’t know for sure,’ Bryan said in a May interview with Seacrist, according to a transcript read aloud in court late Friday. ‘It was just instinct man, I don’t know. I figured he stole something.’ 

Georgia Bureau of Investigation Agent Jason Seacrist (pictured), who interviewed defendant William 'Roddie' Bryan Jr. on at least two occasions, returned to the witness stand Monday and was questioned by a defense lawyer about his interviews with the accused

Georgia Bureau of Investigation Agent Jason Seacrist (pictured), who interviewed defendant William ‘Roddie’ Bryan Jr. on at least two occasions, returned to the witness stand Monday and was questioned by a defense lawyer about his interviews with the accused

Defendant William 'Roddie' Bryan (pictured in court on Nov. 9) told Agent Seacrist he thought Arbery had done something wrong: 'I didn't know for sure. It was just instinct man, I don't know. I figured he stole something'

Defendant William ‘Roddie’ Bryan (pictured in court on Nov. 9) told Agent Seacrist he thought Arbery had done something wrong: ‘I didn’t know for sure. It was just instinct man, I don’t know. I figured he stole something’

The fresh evidence on day seven of the trial follows a dramatic week in which Georgia State prosecutors focused on destroying the defense claim that their clients were trying to make a lawful citizens’ arrest of a man they suspected of local burglaries.  

Ex-cop Gregory McMichael, 65, his son, Travis McMichael, 35, and Bryan are each charged in the death of Arbery, a 25-year-old black jogger who was fatally shot last year after he was spotted running in the defendants’ coastal Georgia neighborhood. 

The McMichaels and Bryan all deny charges of murder, aggravated assault and false imprisonment for chasing Arbery down a residential street in their pick-up trucks, leading to him lying dead in the road after three shots were fired.

Their defense attorneys have been arguing Arbery was suspected of burglary after reports of thefts in the neighborhood – and the trio were trying to make the citizens’ arrest when the black man fought back in a tussle with Travis who was wielding a shotgun.

But Georgia State prosecutor Linda Dunikoski last week called witnesses to try to convince the jury the McMichaels were acting like vigilantes tracking down the mystery black man – and they ended up using deadly force.

The McMichaels were armed with a .357 Magnum handgun and the shotgun, the court heard. They began their chase when they spotted budding rapper Arbery running past their home on February 23 last year.

Ex-cop Gregory McMichael (pictured in court on Nov. 9), his son, Travis McMichael and Bryan are each charged in the death of Arbery

Travis McMichael (pictured in court last week) is accused of firing the three shots that killed Arbery

Ex-cop Gregory McMichael (left), his son, Travis McMichael (right) and Bryan are each charged in the death of Arbery

Unarmed neighbor Bryan, 52, joined the chase in his own truck after seeing the McMichaels’ pursuit – and would film the shocking cell phone footage of the deadly encounter only minutes away.

Jurors have heard Gregory McMichael said Arbery was ‘trapped like a rat’ when the black jogger was finally confronted at the end of the chase. Glynn County Police detective sergeant Rod Nohilly took the stand and read out a portion of his interview with the accused.

McMichael, a former Glynn County cop and former investigator with the local district attorney’s office, told him: ‘He was trapped like a rat. I think he was wanting to flee and he realized that something, you know, he was not going to get away.’

He told the detective he and Travis had shouted for Arbery to stop, and added: ‘He was much faster than Travis would ever be.

‘He had opportunity to flee further you know. We had chased him around the neighborhood a bit but he wasn’t winded at all. I mean this guy was, he was in good shape.’

And in a transcript of an interview with Detective Parker Marcy which he read to the court, McMichael said: ‘I said stop. I’ll blow your f***ing head off, or something.

‘I was trying to convey to this guy we were not playing, you know.’

Gregory McMichael also told Glynn County Police officer Jeff Brandeberry: ‘The guy comes hauling a** down the street. I’m talking about dead run, he’s not jogging.’

‘So I haul my a** into my bedroom to get a .357 Magnum. I don’t take any chances.

‘To be perfectly honest with you, if I could have gotten a shot at the guy, I’d have shot him myself.’

He added: ‘That ain’t no shuffler. This guy’s an a**hole.’

Officer-worn body camera footage presented in court last Monday showed Gregory McMichael, 65, (left) consoling his son, Travis McMichael (right), after the 35-year-old shot Ahmaud Arbery

Officer-worn body camera footage presented in court last Monday showed Gregory McMichael, 65, (left) consoling his son, Travis McMichael (right), after the 35-year-old shot Ahmaud Arbery

Gregory McMichael (left) allegedly told police that he, his son (right) and their neighbor had Ahmaud Arbery (pictured on the pavement) 'trapped like a rat,' noting that the jogger 'knew he wasn't going to get away'

Gregory McMichael (left) allegedly told police that he, his son (right) and their neighbor had Ahmaud Arbery (pictured on the pavement) ‘trapped like a rat,’ noting that the jogger ‘knew he wasn’t going to get away’

In a police report of the shooting, Gregory McMichael alleged Arbery began fighting over the shotgun being held by Travis and there were two shots – although evidence has been given that there were three shots.

The McMichaels’ belief that Arbery was a burglary suspect was based on previous security footage showing him wandering around a partly-constructed house two homes away from their own in Satilla Drive.

Jurors at Brunswick Superior Court last week saw security videos of the young black man at the house on five occasions. Four of these were at night and one around lunchtime on the fateful day when he was chased to his death.

Arbery did not touch any items in the house being built by owner and construction boss Larry English on any of the five visits and nothing was stolen from the home when he was there, the court heard.

Glynn County Police patrol officer Robert Rash told jurors he had been trying to identify the then unidentified black man since being alerted to the first recorded visit to the waterfront property on October 25, 2019.

He said he planned to talk to Arbery about possible trespassing – not burglary – and just warn him to stay off the property. Any subsequent action or charge would be the decision of English, 51, he added.

Rash had shown the October 25 security video to Gregory McMichael during his inquiries in the neighborhood, he told the court.

Then 12 days before the black jogger was killed, Travis McMichael made a breathless night time 911 call saying he had confronted and ‘chased’ a black man at the house.

Glynn County police officer Robert Rash (bottom left) took the witness stand on the sixth day of trial on Friday. The cop responded to the scene after Travis called 911

Glynn County police officer Robert Rash (bottom left) took the witness stand on the sixth day of trial on Friday. The cop responded to the scene after Travis called 911 

Rash's bodycam footage showed the cop entering the home with his gun drawn after back-up officers had arrived

Rash’s bodycam footage showed the cop entering the home with his gun drawn after back-up officers had arrived

Travis, panting heavily, told the 911 operator he had ‘caught a guy running into a house being built’ the jury heard. ‘Black male, red shirt. He is in the house.’ He also said the man reached into his pocket and ‘could be armed’.

Rash attended the scene after being told by his dispatch there was a possible burglary in progress. Jurors were shown dramatic footage from his bodycam as he entered the house, his gun drawn and aimed in front of him with a flashlight leading the way. But Arbery was nowhere to be seen.

Back outside, the footage revealed both McMichaels trying to hunt down the mystery black man, with three neighbors also present. One of these was Matt Albenze, who jurors heard was to call the police non-emergency line on February 23 when he spotted Arbery at the house again.

As the officer and neighbors swapped information, the body cam reveals Gregory McMichael telling Rash: ‘Travis just walked down there’ referring to the back of the property and nearby homes. He adds: ‘He’s armed by the way.’

Rash told the court: ‘I was the first officer and on my arrival Travis McMichael and Greg McMichael were on the scene. I stood by for other officers to get there before proceeding to check the property for the unidentified male. I believe they (the McMichaels) told dispatch about having guns, but I didn’t see them brandishing guns.’

The officer said he viewed the McMichaels as witnesses and had no plans to deputize them.

Rash told the court he had put English in touch with Gregory McMichael, because he believed the latter could be a reliable witness if there was another situation at the house due to his law enforcement experience.

But during English’s four-hour pre-recorded video testimony at the trial, he denied McMichael was given any permission to hunt down anyone spotted there. 

A 45-second clip from October 25 (pictured) showed Arbery wandering around near the back of the house at night. Larry English, who was constructing his 'dream second home', called 911 to report a 'trespasser' who he suspected was 'maybe drunk or on drugs'

A 45-second clip from October 25 (pictured) showed Arbery wandering around near the back of the house at night. Larry English, who was constructing his ‘dream second home’, called 911 to report a ‘trespasser’ who he suspected was ‘maybe drunk or on drugs’

The 25-year-old is seen above at the same home on February 23, 2020 - the day he was chased and killed

The 25-year-old is seen above at the same home on February 23, 2020 – the day he was chased and killed

Prosecutor Pail Camarillo asked English: ‘At any point in time did you authorize the McMichael to ever confront anybody on your site?’

English replied: ‘No’. Camarillo followed up: ‘Or act on behalf of the police on your site.’ English said: ‘No’.

The married home owner, who said he was suffering from sarcoidosis – a serious condition of the heart and lungs – revealed he was building his ‘dream home’ and staying there in a camper around two weekends a month during construction. He lives 90 miles away in Douglas, Georgia.

He installed about eight security cameras at the site in 2019 after reports of people entering. Images were relayed to English’s cell phone after the motion sensors tripped.

Not all the visitors were Arbery, the court heard. Children were among the first spotted and on November 17, 2019, a white couple were captured on video entering the premises at night.

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Read more at DailyMail.co.uk