Defense Attorney in Ahmaud Arbery Case Calls Trial 'Public Lynching' of White Defendants

A defense attorney representing one of the three white men accused of chasing and killing Ahmaud Arbery, an unarmed Black jogger, called the murder trial a "public lynching" of his client on Friday.

Ahead of the closing arguments in the case, attorney Kevin Gough, who is representing defendant William "Roddie" Bryan, complained to the judge that the trial was being influenced by forces outside the courtroom in his motion seeking a mistrial.

"This is not 1915. This is not 1923. There are not thousands of people outside with pitchforks and baseball bats, but I would respectfully submit to the court that this is the 21st-century equivalent," Gough told the court.

"Third parties are influencing this case. They've been doing it from the gallery of this courtroom. They've been doing it from outside. This is what a public lynching looks like in the 21st century," he added.

Arbery's death has been compared to a modern-day lynching by a number of racial justice advocates. On February 23, 2020, the 25-year-old was fatally shot by Travis McMichael in actions the defense contends were done in self-defense.

During the shooting, McMichael was accompanied by his father Gregory and their neighbor Bryan. All three men are on trial for the murder of Arbery.

"What has happened in this case, is a lynching in the 21st century," Reverend Al Sharpton said at a prayer vigil outside the Glynn County Courthouse last week.

Arbery's father has also described his son's killing to reporters as a lynching, telling them "My boy got killed for his skin color, lynched."

Ahmaud Arbery Lynching Defendant Defense Murder Trial
A defense attorney representing one of the men accused of killing Ahmaud Arbery called the trial a "public lynching" on Friday. People hold portraits of George Floyd and Ahmaud Arbery during a protest demonstration outside the Governors Mansion on March 6, 2021 in St. Paul, Minnesota. Stephen Maturen/Stringer

On Friday, Gough used the same metaphor but for the defendants in the case.

The attorney argued that it did not matter whether the jury or the witnesses were actually being pressured by external factors, but that it was critical to note the case had been influenced by things unrelated to the innocence of the defendants.

"Just because they haven't put a podium up outside with a hangman's noose, it doesn't mean this isn't a trial, despite the best efforts of the course, this isn't a trial that hasn't been affected by a woke left mob," Gough said.

Gough filed another motion for a mistrial on Friday, again arguing that the case was being influenced by the swarm of people who had gathered outside the courthouse over the course of the trial, including a significant number of Black pastors.

In response, the state asked the judge to deny Gough's motion based on the fact that there was no evidence of the jurors being influenced or the witnesses being intimidated by protesters outside the court.

Lead prosecutor Linda Dunikoski went even further to argue that the number of Black pastors who had traveled to Brunswick, Georgia was Gough's own doing.

"He is asking for a mistrial based on something he caused," Dunikoski argued in front of the court.

Last week, Gough came under fire after he raised an issue with the high-profile Black pastors who were seen attending the trial with the Arbery family.

"Obviously, there's only so many pastors they can have," Gough said in the court last Thursday. "If their pastor is Al Sharpton right now, that's fine, but then that's it. 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."

Gough filed several motions asking the judge to limit who would be allowed in the court—all of which have been denied by the presiding judge, who has refused to issue blanket exclusions to the public trial.

In response to Gough's comments, Black pastors vowed to travel to the courthouse en masse to pray with the Arbery family. The group held a rally in support of the family on Thursday.

"He got the response he wanted," Dunikoski said on Friday.

She accused Gough of intentionally filing motions on every day of the trial to provoke more pastors to attend the proceedings.

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

The judge denied Gough's motion for mistrial.