Posted on November 12, 2021

The McMichael/Arbery Trial: Al Sharpton in the Courtroom

Anastasia Katz, American Renaissance, November 12, 2021

On Wednesday, November 11, Reverend Al Sharpton and attorney Ben Crump spoke outside the courthouse in Brunswick, Georgia, where Gregory and Travis McMichael and William “Roddie” Bryan are on trial for killing Ahmaud Arbery. Mr. Sharpton called Arbery’s death “a lynching in the 21st century,” and claimed that Arbery was shot for jogging. Mr. Sharpton told the crowd in front of the courthouse, “You still can’t jog through Brunswick, Georgia, without being shot down, like you are a suspect, only because of the color of your skin.”

Roddie Bryan’s defense attorney, Kevin Gough, saw Al Sharpton sitting inside the courtroom, toward the back, and had something to say about it when addressing the judge the next day:

As I was cross-examining Investigator Lowry yesterday, the Reverend Al Sharpton managed to find his way into the back of the courtroom. I’m guessing he was somehow there at the invitation of the victim’s family in this case, and, I have nothing personal against Mr. Sharpton. My concern is that it’s one thing for the family to be present, it’s another thing to ask for the lawyers to be present, but if we’re going to start a precedent, starting yesterday, where 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 front of the jury, I believe that’s intimidating and it’s an attempt to pressure. It could be, consciously or unconsciously, an attempt to pressure and influence the jury.

The idea that we’re going to be serially bringing these people in with the victim’s family, one after the other, obviously, there’s only so many pastors they can have. They have Al Sharpton right now, but then, that’s it. We don’t want any black pastors coming in here, Jesse Jackson or whoever was in here earlier this week, sitting with the family trying to influence the jury in this case. I think the court can understand my concern with bringing people in who don’t have any ties to this case other than political interest. We want to keep politics out of this case. So I’m asking the court to take appropriate steps to make sure that the gallery, which is already limited in this case, isn’t being utilized for a purpose that could be viewed as improper.

Judge Walmsley said, “What is it a motion to do?”

Franklin Hogue, who represents Greg McMichael, said, “It’s not a motion, it’s a reminder of the court’s previous instructions to keep outside influences outside the courtroom.”

When the judge gave prosecutor Linda Dunikoski a turn to comment, she said, “It’s a public courtroom. . . . The State had no part in that whatsoever.”

Mr. Gough cross-asked, “If a bunch of people came in here dressed as Colonel Sanders with white masks sitting in the back . . . ?”

The judge cut him off. He said that he knew that Mr. Sharpton would be speaking outside the courthouse, and he was asked if Mr. Sharpton could take a seat in the part of the gallery reserved for the Arbery family. “My comment to that was simply as long as things are not disruptive and it’s not a distraction to the jury and there’s nothing else going on in the courtroom, so be it,” Judge Walmsley said, “but if it violates the courts rules with regard to the conduct of the trial or violates my orders with how people are to conduct themselves in this courtroom, I will take it up with whomever I need to take it up with. . . . I am not going to blanketly exclude members of the public from this courtroom.”

Judge Walmsley added that there is a barrier in the room and he wasn’t sure that the jurors could even see Mr. Sharpton.

Mr. Gough thought jurors would be able to see that part of the gallery. “We have 12 jurors who are trying to maintain their anonymity here, some of whom expressed concern about it,” he said. “When we allow people in this courtroom who are not part of the case, but they have an interest in it, and the jurors can eyeball them and it’s people they know from TV, then that is intimidating.”

He said he wouldn’t make a motion yet, but he might in the future, because he thought this could be a problem for the defense.

Rev. Sharpton was quiet inside the courtroom, but the jury is not sequestered, and he certainly sounded like he was in the mood for disruption. “We show up because that’s what we do,” Rev. Sharpton said in front of the courthouse. “We show up. We show up to help blow it up. . . . [A] lot of local county people will say, well let it blow over, well they know today, it’s not going to blow over!”

I could not find any record that Jesse Jackson has been in the courtroom; Mr. Gough may have been mistaken. It was reported that Mr. Jackson intended to be there on November 4 or 5. It’s also possible Mr. Gough was referring to Lee Merritt, the lawyer who is representing Ahmaud Arbery’s mother, Wanda Cooper-Jones, in a civil lawsuit. Mr. Merritt sat with Mrs. Cooper-Jones during opening statements on November 5th.