Arguing Friday for a mistrial over what he called undue influence by the “woke mob” outside the courthouse, the embattled attorney representing one of three white men charged in Ahmaud Arbery’s killing likened the demonstrations to “a public lynching.”
Kevin Gough has been widely criticized over his repeated attempts to have demonstrations prohibited on courthouse grounds and high-profile civil rights leaders banned from the gallery.
In response to his remarks about the Revs. Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson, hundreds of Black clergy members descended on the courthouse Thursday. They hosted a prayer vigil before leading demonstrators on a march through Brunswick.
“This is not 1915. This is not 1923. There are not thousands of people outside with pitchforks and baseball bats,” said Gough, who represents William “Roddie” Bryan. “But I would respectfully submit to the court that this is the 21st century equivalent. This case has been infected by things that have nothing to do with the guilt or innocence of these defendants.”
Bryan, Travis McMichael, and his father, Greg McMichael, face murder and other charges in the Arbery’s Feb. 23, 2020, shooting. The men contend they were trying to detain Arbery, who they suspected in a series of neighborhood break-ins. He was Black.
Gough’s latest comments came during a conference over how to charge the mostly white jury before it begins deliberations sometime next week. The defense rested Thursday after calling seven witnesses, including Travis McMichael, the man who killed Arbery. Closing arguments are scheduled for Monday.
Gough argued the three men charged with Arbery’s murder have been denied their right to a fair trial because of media coverage of the case and the ongoing rallies outside the courthouse.
“Third parties are influencing this case,” he told Judge Timothy Walmsley. “They’ve been doing it from the gallery of this courtroom. They’ve been doing it outside. This is what a public lynching looks like in the 21st century.”
He added: “It doesn’t matter how many people are outside. It doesn’t matter how violent they appear to be. It doesn’t take much.
“(Just because) they haven’t put a podium up outside with a hangman’s noose on it doesn’t mean that this isn’t a trial, despite the best efforts of the court. This is a trial that’s been infected by mob violence of a woke left mob.”
Gough argued that jurors could likely hear the demonstrations going on outside on the courthouse steps, and said several shared concerns during jury selection that their verdicts could affect their personal lives.
“The perception is the reality, and the media have fed that perception, whether it’s true or not,” he said. “This is what a mob-dominated trial looks like in the 21st century.”
Shortly before he delivered his latest round of inflammatory remarks, lead prosecutor Linda Dunikoski called Gough a “brilliant lawyer” who knows exactly what he is doing.
“He is very, very smart, he is very, very calculating and he is a good lawyer,” she said. “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.” she said. “That was not ineffective counsel by any stretch of the imagination. That was strategic. He got the response he wanted.”
Gough turned heads last week when he referenced the founder of Kentucky Fried Chicken while objecting to Black pastors sitting with the Arbery family.
“If a bunch of folks came in here dressed like Colonel Sanders with white masks sitting in the back, that would be—” He was quickly cut off by the judge.
Dunikoski said Thursday’s demonstration was a direct response to what he said, calling it “good lawyering.” She also said there is no evidence that any of the jurors have been influenced by the ongoing demonstrations outside.
“Of all the things I’ve been called, all around the world in the last month, I don’t think ‘brilliant’ was any of them,” Gough responded.
His latest motion for a mistrial was denied.
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