Can You Ban ‘Black Pastors’ From Courtroom? Check Box ‘Yes’ Or ‘No’


Yesterday, a lawyer for one of the men who killed Ahmaud Arbery asked the judge in his client's murder trial to ban Black pastors from the courtroom.

I wish I were kidding. But "we don't want any more Black pastors coming in here" is, in fact, a direct quote.

Kevin Gough, attorney for William "Roddie" Bryan, actually stood up, in open court, in a public courtroom, and said those words. Whining that Al Sharpton had "managed to find his way into the back of the courtroom," Gough emphasized that while he has "nothing personally against Mr. Sharpton," the presence of "high profile members of the African American community" could be "intimidating" and "an attempt to pressure ... or influence the jury." He also complained that they have "all kinds of pastors in this town" and Reverend Sharpton doesn't even have a church in the county.

And then, he just went for it.


"The idea that we're going to be serially bringing these people in to sit with the victim's family, one after another ... Obviously, there's only so many pastors they can have. If their pastor's Al Sharpton right now, that's fine. 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 the jury in this case."

So, to be clear, Gough didn't ask the judge to remove Al Sharpton from the courtroom. He asked the judge to ban other Black pastors from sitting with Arbery's family in the future. Would a white pastor be okay, Kevin? Asian? What race of pastor is acceptable to you? Why stop at pastors?! Maybe we should ban ALL Black people from the courtroom!

Judge Timothy Walmsley, to his credit, declined to ban Black pastors from his courtroom. The judge said he was "not going to blanketly exclude members of the public from this courtroom," and anyone who complies with the courthouse's rules can watch the trial. Because see headline above, is "ban Black pastors from courtroom" a thing you can do? The answer is no.

Between a request to ban Black pastors from a lynching trial and the shitstorm that is the Rittenhouse trial, it is quite the week for our criminal legal system*.

*It's not a "criminal justice system." Justice has nothing to do with it.

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