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Kevin Gough

Defense attorney Kevin Gough was widely condemned after trying to exclude Black pastors from the courtroom on November 11, 2021 during the trial of his client, William "Roddie" Bryan, one of three men accused of murdering unarmed Black jogger Ahmaud Arbery in Brunswick, Georgia last year. (Photo: Stephen B. Morton-Pool/Getty Images)

'Arrogant Insensitivity': Defense Lawyer in Arbery Murder Trial Ripped for Bid to Bar Black Pastors

Attorney Kevin Gough, who said that "we don't want any more Black pastors in here," was called out for "fearmongering" and "reprehensible bigotry."

Brett Wilkins

An attorney for one of the three men accused of murdering unarmed Black runner Ahmaud Arbery in Brunswick, Georgia last year raised eyebrows and ire Thursday after asking the presiding judge in the case to exclude Black faith leaders from the courtroom because he believes their presence is "political" and could sway the nearly all-white jury.

"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."

Kevin Gough, the defense attorney for William "Roddie" Bryan—who recorded cellphone video of the February 23, 2020 pickup truck chase and fatal shooting of the 25-year-old Black jogger—unsuccessfully argued that the presence of well-known Black clergy including Revs. Al Sharpton, Jesse Jackson, and William Barber II would be "intimidating" to jurors.

"If 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 intimidating, that's an attempt to pressure... or influence the jury," Gough argued.

"There's only so many pastors they can have," he continued. "If their pastor is Al Sharpton right now that's fine, but that's it."

"We don't want any more Black pastors in here," Gough added as members of the defendants' legal team visibly expressed shock and disdain.

Gough, referring to the founder and marketing mascot of the fast-food chain Kentucky Fried Chicken, curiously added that "if a bunch of folks came in here dressed like Colonel Sanders with white masks sitting in the back," before trailing off.

Flatly denying Gough's request, Judge Timothy Walmsley said, "I'm not going to start blanketly excluding members of the public from this courtroom."

Sharpton, who was invited by Arbery's parents and who has called his killing a "lynching," issued a statement accusing Gough of "insulting the family of the victim" and "pouring salt into their wounds."

"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," he said.

Barbara Arnwine, founder of the Transformative Justice Coalition, said outside the Brunswick courthouse that Gough's request are part of a pattern of "race-baiting" and "fearmongering," and that the attorney "ought to be ashamed of himself."


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