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Mistrial requested, denied over Black Panthers, coffin outside courthouse in Ahmaud Arbery death trial

Attorney Kevin Gough has made several motions for mistrial throughout proceedings.

GLYNN COUNTY, Ga. — Another request for a mistrial was denied on Monday as attorneys went over their closing arguments in the trial of the killing of Ahmaud Arbery.

Kevin Gough, the attorney for William "Roddie" Bryan, has made several motions for mistrial throughout the trial, repeatedly alleging jury intimidation or some other undue influence on proceedings by outside actors.

On Monday he objected to the presence of armed people outside the Glynn County Courthouse, allegedly members of the Black Panthers group, and the display of a coffin supposedly bearing the names of his client and the other two defendants, Greg and Travis McMichael. The three men are facing murder charges in the death of the Black jogger.

RELATED: What are the grounds for a mistrial?

Judge Timothy Walmsley denied a mistrial, again, saying that he agreed "with the concern that is out there" but that nothing "has been brought to my attention" that suggests the jury has been exposed to or influenced by it.

11Alive's Hope Ford is reporting this week from Brunswick and captured a photo of the coffin outside the courthouse. Her photo showed many names on the coffin, none visible belonging to the defendants. The names appeared to primarily belong to Black victims of police shootings.

At least one small, fringe militant group was reportedly identified outside the courthouse.

"This is no longer a figurative mob, this is a literal mob, and inevitably the proceedings, despite best efforts, are tainted," Gough argued.

Before the day ended, Prosecutor Linda Dunikoski said it was brought to her attention it was misrepresented about what names were on the coffin.

"This coffin situation that had Mr. Gough was talking about did not have the defendants' name on them," she said. "They actually had the names of Mr. Arbery and I think George Floyd."

She said she wanted to bring it up for purposes of the record. 

The judge said he asked the sheriff's department about the coffin and they essentially told him the same thing.

In previous motions for mistrial, the State has argued Gough inspired much of the most politically charged responses in Brunswick through incendiary comments in court - such as saying he did not want "any more Black pastors coming in here."

"But they're responding to what he did. They're responding to what he strategically, knowingly, intelligently did, so that there would be a response so that he could then complain of it," Dunikoski said.

The attorney for Greg McMichael, Franklin Hogue, said he wanted to respect the First Amendment rights of people outside and said they were okay if the jury remained unaware of things. The attorneys for Travis McMichael agreed.

"Individuals have a right to be outside the courthouse," Judge Walmsley said in denying the mistrial. "I agree with Mr. Hogue that the court needs to keep a very close eye on whether or not whatever may be going outside the courthouse has any influence upon the jury, and the court has taken steps to ensure that the jury is insulated from anything going on around the courthouse so that they can focus on the business before the court - which would be to consider the evidence presented, as well as the arguments of counsel, and I will continue to endeavor to do so."

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