Judge Denies Mistrial Request After Ahmaud Arbery's Mom Cries Next to Jesse Jackson

The trial in the death of a Georgia Black man at the hands of three white men continued Monday as defense attorneys claimed that the crying of victim Ahmaud Arbery's mother would taint the jurors and cause a mistrial. The judge declined the mistrial requests.

This claim follows one against Rev. Jesse Jackson earlier Monday, with the defense attorney asking for the pastor to be removed from the court, saying his presence would cause unease amongst the jury.

"As the judge said, it was my constitutional right to be there," Jackson said. "It's my moral obligation to be there."

Superior Court Judge Timothy Walmsley declined to have Jackson removed, saying he was not causing any disruption to the court.

"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. If there is a disruption, you're welcome to call that to my attention," Walmsley said.

Attorney Kevin Gough also complained last week when the Rev. Al Sharpton joined Arbery's mother and father inside the Glynn County courtroom and said he feared the presence of the parent's pastor could influence the jury, telling the judge "we don't want any more Black pastors coming in here."

"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," Gough added.

"In the context of this trial, we object to his presence in the public gallery. How many pastors does the Arbery family have? We had the Reverend Al Sharpton last week," Gough said.

Jason Sheffield, one of Travis McMichaels' attorneys, said the weeping caused some jurors to look and see Jackson, who was seated next to Arbery's family.

"Several jurors did look over. Their faces changed, (showing) the emotion and sympathy they felt," said Sheffield.

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below:

Marcus Arbery
The Ahmaud Arbery Death trial continued Monday, with the defense attorney of the three men who murdered Arbery asking for Arbery’s parents’ pastor to be removed from the court. The Reverend Al Sharpton, right, and Barbara Arnwine, founder of the Transformative Justice Coalition, rest their hands on Marcus Arbery's shoulder as Benjamin Crump, left, one of the Arbery family's lawyers, speaks about the slain Ahmaud Arbery outside the Glynn County courthouse, Wednesday, November 10 in Brunswick, Georgia. Terry Dickson/The Brunswick News/Associated Press

Father and son Greg and Travis McMichael armed themselves and pursued the 25-year-old Black man in a pickup truck after spotting him running in their neighborhood on February 23, 2020.

Their neighbor William "Roddie" Bryan joined the chase and told police he ran Arbery off the road with his own truck before taking cellphone video of Travis McMichael shooting him three times with a shotgun.

Gough renewed his concern Monday when Jackson sat in the back of the courtroom gallery between Arbery's mother, Wanda Cooper-Jones, and father, Marcus Arbery Sr. The civil rights leader wore a mask, but at one point pulled it down beneath his chin while speaking with Cooper-Jones.

Georgia Bureau of Investigation Agent Jason Seacrist returned to the witness stand Monday and was questioned by a defense lawyer about his interviews with Bryan. Gough pressed Seacrist about his client's claims that Arbery tried to get into Bryan's 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."

Bryan and the McMichaels are charged with murder and other crimes. Prosecutors said they chased Arbery for five minutes to keep him from exiting the Satilla Shores subdivision outside the port city of Brunswick. The chase ended when Arbery, trailed by Bryan's truck, tried to run around the McMichaels' truck as it idled in the road ahead. The video showed Travis McMichael confronting Arbery and then shooting him as he throws punches and grapples for the gun.

The McMichaels told police they suspected Arbery was a burglar after security cameras several times recorded him inside the unfinished home five doors from their own house. Defense attorneys said Travis McMichael opened fire in self-defense.

Superior Court Judge Timothy Walmsley
Superior Court Judge Timothy Walmsley addresses an objection by the defense during the trial of Greg McMichael and his son, Travis McMichael, and a neighbor, William "Roddie" Bryan in the Glynn County Courthouse, November 9 in Brunswick, Georgia. The three are charged with the February 2020 slaying of 25-year-old Ahmaud Arbery. Stephen B. Morton, Pool/Associated Press

Updated 11/15/2021, 4:34 p.m. ET: This story has been updated with comments from Reverend Jesse Jackson.