Ahmaud Arbery Murder Trial Day 11: Attorney likens rally to `lynching’ of defendants

The defense attorney who caused an outcry by saying Black pastors should be barred from the murder trial over Ahmaud Arbery’s death declared in court Friday that a courthouse rally supporting the slain Black man’s family was comparable to a "public lynching" of the three white defendants.

"This case has been infected by things that have nothing to do with the guilt or innocence of these defendants," attorney Kevin Gough told the judge, arguing that civil rights activists are trying to influence the disproportionately white jury.


Gough renewed a request for a mistrial the day after the Rev. Al Sharpton, the Rev. Jesse Jackson and Martin Luther King III joined hundreds of pastors, most of them Black, praying and rallying at the steps of the Glynn County courthouse. The event was organized after Gough last week objected to Sharpton sitting in the back row of the courtroom with Arbery’s parents.

"This is what a public lynching looks like in the 21st century," Gough told the judge, saying his client’s right to a fair trial was being violated by a "left woke mob."

Superior Court Judge Timothy Walmsley dismissed the mistrial motion with little discussion.

"I don’t recall any disruption in the courtroom itself," the judge said of Thursday’s rally, which coincided with defense testimony.

Gough is the lead attorney for William "Roddie" Bryan, who joined father and son Greg and Travis McMichael in pursuing Arbery in pickup trucks after spotting the 25-year-old man running in their coastal Georgia neighborhood on Feb. 23, 2020. Bryan took cellphone video of Travis McMichael shooting Arbery as he threw punches and grabbed for the shotgun.

Arbery’s killing later became part of the broader reckoning on racial injustice in the criminal legal system after a string of fatal encounters between Black people and police.

Gough has repeatedly raised concerns about outside activists seeking to influence the case. He made the lynching remark after prosecutor Linda Dunikoski accused Gough of intentionally provoking outrage among Black pastors and civil rights activists.

"They are responding to what he strategically, knowingly, intelligently did so that there would be a response so that he could then complain of it," Dunikoski said. "That is good lawyering right there. Because now he’s motioned for a mistrial based on something that he caused."


Arbery’s mother, Wanda Cooper-Jones, called Gough’s latest comments "ridiculous."

"He’s done things repeatedly that just surprise me that he would say," she told reporters outside the courthouse. "Very surprising, but not unexpected I would say."

Reb. Jesse Jackson sit with the family of Ahmaud Arbery during the trial of the three men accused in his death in a Glynn County courtroom on Nov. 18, 2021.

Reb. Jesse Jackson sit with the family of Ahmaud Arbery during the trial of the three men accused in his death in a Glynn County courtroom on Nov. 18, 2021. (FOX 5)

With closing arguments set for Monday, prosecutors and defense attorneys spent Friday debating nuances of the legal instructions the judge plans to give to the jury before deliberations.

Much of the debate dealt with how the judge will describe the limitations on making a citizen’s arrest. Defense attorneys say Georgia law authorized the McMichaels and Bryan to detain Arbery for police because they had valid reason to suspect he was a burglar. Prosecutors say there’s no evidence that Arbery had committed any crimes in the neighborhood.

Defense attorneys objected when the judge said he would instruct the jury that "a private citizen’s warrantless arrest must occur immediately after the perpetration of the offense, or in the case of a felony during escape."


Superior Court Judge Timothy Walmsley addresses to the lawyers on both sides of the Ahmaud Arbery murder trial during a charging conference hearing on Friday, Nov. 19, 2021.

Superior Court Judge Timothy Walmsley addresses to the lawyers on both sides of the Ahmaud Arbery murder trial during a charging conference hearing on Friday, Nov. 19, 2021.  (FOX 5)

Robert Rubin, an attorney for Travis McMichael, said the proposed language would make it virtually impossible for a jury to find the defendants had probable cause to detain Arbery based on suspicion he’d committed prior burglaries in same home under construction he was seen running from before his death.

"We have built this whole case around the probable cause ... that Travis McMichael and Greg McMichael had on Feb. 23 for events that happened previously," Rubin said. "And you are gutting all of it."

Travis McMichael testified this week that he had seen security camera videos of Arbery inside the unfinished home and that he spotted Arbery "creeping" outside of it 12 days before the shooting. None of the five videos of Arbery inside the home showed him stealing. The owner said he installed cameras after items were taken from a boat he kept in an open garage.

Walmsley said he would consider changes if attorneys could support them citing other cases.

What's known about Ahmaud Arbery's death

A police report from the Glynn County Police Department says a man and his son, frustrated by a string of burglaries and break-ins in their neighborhood, decided to take matters in their own hands. 

The men saw Arbery running through the Satilla Shores subdivision and considered him suspicious, a report says. They armed themselves and pursued him. Gregory McMichael, who it was later discovered has ties to the Glynn County District Attorney's Office, told police that Arbery and Travis fought over his son’s shotgun and his son fired two shots, killing Arbery. 

Information that unfolded after the incident revealed Arbery was unarmed. 

It was later discovered a man named William "Roddie" Bryan allegedly joined the chase and eventually cut off Arbery's route in a vehicle before he was shot and killed. 

No one was arrested or charged for months after the shooting occurred. 

Suspects: Gregory and Travis McMichael, William "Roddie" Bryan

Greg McMichael is a retired investigator for former Brunswick District Attorney Jackie Johnson. He retired in 2019. Phone records introduced in court show he called Johnson and left her a voicemail after the shooting. Johnson said she recused her office from the case immediately because of its relationship with Greg McMichael.

The McMichaels’ attorneys' offered the explanation that their clients pursued Arbery because they suspected he was a burglar. 

Security cameras had previously recorded Arbery entering a home under construction. 

Attorneys for Travis McMichael shot Arbery while fearing for his life as they grappled over a shotgun.

Greg and Travis McMichael were arrested in May 2020, several months after the shooting took place after a GBI investigation concluded there was evidence for charges against them. 

William "Roddie" Bryan followed the chase and recorded a video of Travis McMichael shooting Arbery. Bryan was arrested weeks after the McMichaels. 

Day 1: Opening statements

As opening statements were underway in the trial over Ahmaud Arbery's murder, some expressed concern over the composition of the jury. 

Lawyers interviewed hundreds of potential jurors and eventually came down to a pool of 11 White people and one Black person.

Arbery’s mother said the selection shook her confidence. 

"I was very shocked we only had one black African American man. That was devastating," Wanda Cooper-Jones said. 

Day 2: Disturbing evidence sets tone

The first day of testimony saw Glynn County police Sgt. Sheila Ramos show jurors dozens of crime scene photos she took about an hour after the shooting.

Judge Timothy Walmsley warned the jury of graphic images and many of the images included Arbery’s body.

The defense also showed body camera video from officers that were first on the scene.

Glynn County Patrol Officer Ricky Minshew testified he arrived at the scene in the Satilla Shores subdivision about a minute after the gunshots sounded.

"The blood was exceeding the perimeter of his body. He was laying face down in the puddle of blood," Minshew said.

Minshew testified he radioed to send emergency medical responders but did not have the training or equipment to treat Arbery's serious injuries.

Day 3: More officers called as witnesses

Glynn County Police Officer Jeff Brandeberry said Greg McMichael never used the words burglary, trespass or citizens arrest at the scene of the shooting.

Bradberry was one of the officers who transcripts from a body-worn camera that detailed conversations with defendant Greg McMichael. 

"I saw him, yes. I saw him and, to be honest, if I would have gotten a shot I would have shot him myself because he was that violent," Brandeberry said while reading from transcripts.

An investigator who spoke to Greg McMichael at the police station also took the stand.

"He said stop you know I will blow your f***** head off or something. I was trying to convey that I was not playing," Investigator Parker Marcy said while reading a portion of the transcript.

Day 4: Satilla Shores witness takes the stand

Matthew Albenze, one of McMichael's neighbors, said he went inside his house and put a handgun in his pocket before he called police from behind a tree at the curb. Arbery left the house running toward the McMichaels’ home while Albenze was on the phone.

Albenze told the jury he called the police non-emergency number.

The defense asked Glynn County police Sgt. Roderic Nohilly if raising a gun would be an appropriate response to a fleeing suspect who refused verbal commands to stop.

"You’ll sometimes draw your weapon, won’t you?" attorney Franklin Hogue asked.

Nohilly replied: "I don’t just pull my gun."

Hogue then asked him what if the attacker is trying to take his gun away.

"At that point, it might meet the threshold, yes," the police sergeant said.

Day 5: ‘We don’t want any more Black pastors coming in here … trying to influence the jury'

Jurors heard more testimony from Satilla Shore residents and comments made by defense attorney Kevin Gough in response to the presence of pastor Al Sharpton in the courtroom. 

"There’s only so many pastors they can have and if their pastor is Al Sharpton then that’s fine. That’s it. We don’t want any more Black pastors coming in here or Jesse Jackson or whoever that was earlier coming in here and sitting with the victim's family trying to influence the jury in this case," defense attorney Kevin Gough said.

"If we are going to start a precedent where we are going to have high profile members of the African-American community into the courtroom to sit with the family in the presence of the jury then I believe that’s intimidation and an attempt to pressure," Gough said.

Gough expressed his displeasure with Rev. Al Sharpton and other high-profile names sitting inside the courtroom throughout the trial.

"If folks came in here dressed as Colonel Sanders with white mask sitting in the back then…" Gough said before being stopped by the judge.

Judge Walmsley said he barely noticed Rev. Sharpton in the court and as long as there were no disruptions then he didn’t see an issue.

"I’m not going to blanketly exclude people from the public from this courtroom," Walmsley said.

The jury saw a recorded deposition with Larry English, who owned the unfinished home where many said they spotted Arbery before the shooting.

Day 6: Officers discusses Arbery's trespassing allegations

Glynn County police officer Robert Rash testified he planned to give Ahmaud Arbery a warning for trespassing for repeatedly entering a home under construction.

GBI Agent Jason Seacrist provided details of his interview with codefendant William Roddy Bryan.

"I asked what was it that made you decide to get your key and truck and see what’s going on. Mr. Bryan responded and said that he didn’t know," GBI Agent Jason Seacrist said.

Day 7: Defense attorney calls for mistrial

The state continued to call witnesses to begin the second week of the trial, including Seacrist. 

Seacrist said Bryan's actions in his car did not match what he thought someone concerned for Arbery's safety would do. 

"If Mr. Bryan was truly concerned about the safety of Mr. Arbery, he would have stayed to the right side of the road and stayed ahead instead of angling to the left to box him in," Seacrist said.

Rev. Jesse Jackson was present in the courtroom sitting next to Arbery's mother. One of the defense attorneys called for a mistrial, denied by Judge Timothy Walmsley. 

Day 8: State rests, GBI medical examiner shows images of Arbery's autopsy

The state rested its case in Ahmaud Arbery's murder trial just before 4:30 p.m. on Nov. 16 after testimony picked up with the state showing images of Arbery's body while the Georgia Bureau of Investigation's medical examiner explained his findings. 

Arbery's mother was in court but excused herself. Members of the defendants' families also seemed disturbed. 

Dr. Edmund Donoghue said two of the three shotgun rounds hit Arbery and both caused severe bleeding.

"Is there anything law enforcement or EMS could have done to save his life at the scene?" prosecutor Linda Dunikoski said.

"I don’t think so. No," Donoghue said.

Day 9: Defendant takes the stand

Travis McMichael took the stand on the first day of the defense's case. 

"I want to explain what happened," McMichael said.

He, his father Greg McMichael and neighbor William "Roddie" Bryan say they were lawfully trying to stop burglaries in their Brunswick, Georgia, neighborhood when they pursued Arbery. 

Attorneys asked the judge to acquit all three defendants on murder charges on the basis that the prosecution had not met the burden of proof to convict. Judge Timothy Walmsley denied the motion. 

Day 9: Travis McMichael takes the stand

The man who fired the shotgun blasts that killed Ahmaud Arbery, took the stand on the first day of the defense's case. 

"I want to explain what happened," McMichael said.

He, his father Greg McMichael and neighbor William "Roddie" Bryan say they were lawfully trying to stop burglaries in their Brunswick, Georgia, neighborhood when they pursued Arbery. 

McMichael, 35, said crime in his mostly quiet neighborhood of older residents and young families seemed to be on the rise not long after he moved into his parents’ home in 2018. He said his own car was broken into several times, prompting him to eventually leave it unlocked.

He also testified about his firearms training from when he served in the Coast Guard.

"What we’re taught is everybody has a weapon. Hands or fists are a weapon," he said.

Attorneys asked the judge to acquit all three defendants on murder charges on the basis that the prosecution had not met the burden of proof to convict. Judge Timothy Walmsley denied the motion. 

Day 10: The defense rests

All three defense attorneys rested their case on Thursday after collectively only calling seven witnesses, including the shooter, who testified that Arbery did not threaten him in any way before he pointed his shotgun at the 25-year-old Black man.

Superior Court Judge Timothy Walmsley scheduled closing arguments in the trial for Monday, setting up the possibility of verdicts before Thanksgiving for the three white men charged with murder in Arbery’s death.

Under cross-examination by the prosecution on his second day of testimony, Travis McMichael said that Arbery hadn’t shown a weapon or spoken to him at all before McMichael raised his shotgun. But, McMichael said, he was "under the impression" that Arbery could be a threat because he was running straight at him and he had seen Arbery trying to get into the truck of a neighbor who had joined in a pursuit of Arbery in their coastal Georgia neighborhood.

"All he’s done is run away from you," prosecutor Linda Dunikoski said. "And you pulled out a shotgun and pointed it at him."

Cellphone video from the Feb. 23, 2020, shooting — replayed in court Thursday — shows Arbery running around the back of McMichael’s pickup truck after McMichael first points the shotgun while standing next to the open driver’s side door. Arbery then runs around the passenger side as McMichael moves to the front and the two come face to face. After that, the truck blocks any view of them until the first gunshot sounds.

Outside the Glynn County courthouse, hundreds of pastors gathered, while a defense lawyer renewed his bid to keep Black ministers out of the courtroom. The Rev. Jesse Jackson again joined Arbery’s family in the courtroom, as he had on some other days this week. Walmsley declined to take the issue up again, noting he’d already rejected the same motion from Bryan attorney Kevin Gough twice.

Gough first asked the judge last week to remove the Rev. Al Sharpton from the court, saying the civil rights activist was trying to influence the disproportionately white jury. He also has complained that activists outside the courthouse are trying to influence the jury with banners and signs, and likewise objected to the pastors’ rally.

"We had a huge protest at lunchtime that was so loud, with bullhorns literally 20 feet from the front door of this courthouse, that you could literally hear what was being said at the doors of this courtroom," Gough told the judge.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.