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Judge denies mistrial in Ahmaud Arbery case

Judge denies mistrial in Ahmaud Arbery case
Ahmaud Arbery was fatally shot on February 23, 2020, while jogging near Brunswick, Ga. File Photo courtesy the Family of Ahmaud Arbery | License Photo

Nov. 19 (UPI) -- A Georgia judge on Friday denied the defense's motion for a mistrial in the murder trial of three men accused of killing Ahmaud Arbery last year.

Kevin Gough, an attorney for William "Roddie" Bryan, asked for the mistrial, saying the "woke, left mob" outside the courtroom were influencing the jury, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported.

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"Third parties are influencing this case, they've been doing it from the gallery in this courtroom, they've been doing it outside," Gough said.

"This is what a public lynching looks like in the 21st century. It doesn't matter how many people are outside, it doesn't matter how violent they appear to be, it doesn't take much -- you've got witnesses and jurors who are worried about their careers and their livelihoods when this case is over and they're well aware of what's going on."

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Bryan and his co-defendants -- Greg McMichael and Travis McMichael -- each face charges of malice murder, felony murder, aggravated assault, false imprisonment and criminal attempt to commit false imprisonment for running down Arbery in their trucks, boxing him in and then shooting him to death Feb. 23, 2020. Arbery had been jogging in the Satilla Shores neighborhood near Brunswick, Ga., when the men starting chasing him.

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State prosecutor Linda Dunikoski said the protesters who had gathered outside the courthouse did so in reaction to comments Gough made last week.

"He is very, very smart. He is very, very calculating, and he is a good lawyer," she said, according to WXIA-TV in Atlanta. "Because on Nov. 12 he stood up in this courtroom knowing full well he was on television and made comments about Al Sharpton and then Black pastors and Colonel Sanders all knowing full well it was being broadcast on television."

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Dunikoski said the protesters were reacting to what Gough said.

"They're responding to what he strategically, knowingly, intelligently did, so that there would be a response, so that he could then complain of it," she said.

Last week, Gough complained to Judge Timothy Walmsley about the presence of "Black pastors" in the courtroom, taking issue with the Rev. Al Sharpton sitting with the Arbery family.

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"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 to influence a jury in this case," Gough said Nov. 11.

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"I believe that's intimidating and it's an attempt to pressure."

Civil rights activists have decried the shooting of Arbery as racially motivated, saying Black men aren't safe going for a jog in a residential neighborhood without the threat of violence or suspicion. The McMichaels and Bryan, all of whom are White, said they chased and shot Arbery because they suspected him of theft.

Gough offered an apology for his remarks Nov. 12 in court.

Walmsley denied Gough's request for a mistrial Friday.

"I think the court's position has been accurately stated previously," he said.

Defense attorneys rested their case Thursday and closing arguments were expected to begin Monday.

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