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Defense attorney at Ahmaud Arbery murder trial apologizes after his comments sparked outcry

“I will let the court know that if my statements yesterday were overly broad, I will follow up with a more specific motion on Monday putting those concerns in the proper context. And my apologies to anyone who might have inadvertently been offended,” lawyer Kevin Gough said.

Gough created a furor Thursday when he decried what he saw as “a precedent … where we’re going to bring high-profile members of the African American community into the courtroom to sit with the family during the trial in the presence of the jury.”

“I believe that’s intimidating and it’s an attempt to pressure.” he said.

The judge told Gough he did not object to Sharpton taking the place of an Arbery family member as long as there were no disruptions.

Gough said Thursday he had “nothing personally against” Sharpton, adding, “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.”

Testifying Friday morning is a police officer who was in touch with the man who owned a home under construction that has been a focus of the case.

Travis McMichael, Gregory McMichael and William “Roddie” Bryan Jr. are accused of chasing Arbery, 25, in vehicles and killing him on February 23, 2020, in Brunswick, Georgia. Defense lawyers have argued that they were attempting to make a citizen’s arrest and that Travis McMichael shot Arbery in self-defense as both wrestled over a shotgun.

The defendants are charged with malice and felony murder in connection with the killing. They also face charges of aggravated assault, false imprisonment and criminal attempt to commit false imprisonment. All have pleaded not guilty. If convicted, each man could face life in prison without the possibility of parole.

Robert Rash, the Glynn County police officer who interacted with homeowner Larry English Jr., is the state’s 13th witness.

The other witness Friday is expected to be a special agent with the Georgia Bureau of Investigations.

Officer who talked with lot owner to testify

In English’s prerecorded deposition played Thursday in court, he said surveillance footage at his home under construction near Brunswick captured people several times in late 2019 and early 2020, and in some instances he called 911 about the intrusions. He was able to keep track of intruders via cameras that he had installed around the home.

Defense attorneys contend their clients were trying to conduct a lawful citizen’s arrest of Arbery, whom they suspected of burglary after they and several neighbors became concerned about people entering English’s property.

The confrontation came minutes after a neighbor called police to say Arbery was at English’s property that afternoon. Gregory McMichael, investigators testified, said he initiated the pursuit after seeing Arbery speedily run by McMichael’s home and he believed Arbery matched the description of someone who’d been recorded at the construction site in the past.
However, prosecution witnesses have testified that McMichael did not know at the time that Arbery was at the site that day or whether a man in English’s surveillance videos had ever stolen anything.
The prosecution has said surveillance videos do show Arbery at the site multiple times but always without breaking in and without incident.

English denied, when asked by prosecutor Paul Camarillo, that he ever authorized the McMichaels to confront anybody on the construction site.

English appeared unable to recall many of the questions that were asked of him and only provided short answers to most. The state played video recorded from his home surveillance system and the associated calls he made to the police.

English also testified that he had only met Travis McMichael once, and had at least one conversation with Gregory McMichael before the shooting occurred and also talked with him afterward.

Camarillo asked English whether he had told the McMichaels about any incidents at his house.

“Probably. But I’m not sure,” English answered.

Arbery’s family has said he was out for a jog when he was shot and killed.

Cell phone video of the episode surfaced more than two months later, sparking widespread public outrage and demonstrations just weeks before the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis set off a summer of nationwide protests against racial injustice.
Defense attorney Kevin Gough speaks Thursday at the Arbery death trial.

What justice means to Arbery’s family

In Georgia’s majority-White Glynn County, where the trial is taking place, race has played a central role in the case.

Arbery’s mother expressed her astonishment at Gough’s comments about Sharpton, telling CNN she was “very surprised to know that he frowned upon anybody, any pastor that would come in to sit with the family, to keep us encouraged.” Wanda Cooper-Jones added that she felt it was just very “insensitive” and “also very, very rude.”

In the judge’s order for clarification, he addressed guidance on courtroom seating, stating “families of the victim and those of the Defendants shall have priority…. lf it is apparent that additional seating is available for the public then seats will be allocated on a first come basis.”

Also speaking on CNN, S. Lee Merritt, the Arbery family attorney, said the defense attorney has been filing “bizarre motions” and he is “concerned the makeup of the jury will impact the outcome of the trial.”

“This attorney is talking about the influence of just one Black juror after they used 11 of their 12 strikes to go after the remaining 11 Black jurors in this case. So we know that these attorneys are attempting to change the outcome by relying on old racial discrimination tactics that have denied a lot of families in the South,” he said.

Arbery’s mother says she is anxious when she sits in the courtroom every day, but she wants justice for her son.

“Justice for Ahmaud looks like everyone who was involved, the three individuals that sit behind those tables in the courtroom, but also the DA’s that mishandled the case very early on, every hand that was involved in the death of Ahmaud, I want them brought to justice,” she said.

The Rev. Al Sharpton prays Wednesday with Wanda Cooper-Jones and Marcus Arbery in front of the Glynn County Courthouse.
At a Transformative Justice Coalition Town Hall on Thursday, Arbery’s father Marcus Arbery, was asked about his son’s interest in being an electrician and his message to other children who want to follow their dreams. The family has said Ahmaud Arbery would go into houses to see what the electrical work was like and that’s what he was doing in the unoccupied house that day.

“Don’t let no racial bystander stop your dream. Keep dreaming and keep pushing for your dreams… You know you got a whole life ahead of you to dream of what you want, and if you try to keep pushing to those goals those dreams going to come true,” Marcus Arbery said.

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