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Judge steps off bench in Ahmaud Arbery death trial over 'rude' behavior by defense attorney

Judge Timothy Walmsley is overseeing proceedings in Glynn County.

GLYNN COUNTY, Ga. — As the Ahmaud Arbery trial progressed toward the end of its third day of testimony on Tuesday, it was marked by a contentious moment between defense attorney Jason Sheffield and the justice overseeing the case.

That judge is Chatham County Superior Court Judge Timothy R. Walmlsley. He is a Savannah-based judge who has been specially appointed to oversee this case in a neighboring district.

In the incident on Tuesday, Sheffield was visibly agitated when a second straight objection to his line of questioning by the prosecution was sustained by Judge Walmsley. 

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He appeared to shrug off the judge as he spoke to him and turn back around, saying something to the effect of being "confused."

At that point, the judge interrupted proceedings and asked the jury to step outside. 

Walmsley then addressed Sheffield for the "disrespect" he was showing the court:

"You can agree or disagree with this court, that is your prerogative, but to act in the way that you just did in front of this panel - disrespect - I don't care whether you like my rulings or not, or you like me or not, but in this court, the Superior Court, it is axiomatic that counsel show at least respect for what the court is doing and what you just did shows a lack of respect for what the court is trying to do here, which is create an environment which is fair to all parties," he said.

"I would suggest that you take a moment to think about that. I'm gonna step off the bench because I found that -- I'll just call it rude. I have tolerated a number of things in the courtroom, including flip charts, writing in the middle of the -- the jury gets distracted when you were doing the flip charts here, jumping up, moving the boards. I would suggest that you temper some of that very quickly, because it will not be tolerated in this court, and I will leave it at that," the judge said.

"I do not need an explanation, I do not need an apology, none of that, but I would suggest that we take a moment and think about the way that you're reacting to the court's instructions and rulings."

The judge then took the court into a short recess.

According to his Chatham County Superior Court bio, Judge Walmsley was appointed to his position in 2012 by then-Gov. Nathan Deal. Before the appointment, he was the Chatham County Magistrate and was a partner at the Savannah law firm Hunter, Maclean, Exley & Dunn, P.C. 

He received his undergrad degree from Allegheny College in Pennsylvania and his law degree from Tulane University.

The bio notes that Judge Walmsley is "presently associated with numerous professional organizations and is actively involved in the Savannah community."

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