Ahmaud Arbery case: Defense attorney to seek new trial after his client was found guilty of murder
William "Roddie" Bryan was found guilty on three counts of felony murder and other charges
Kevin Gough, a defense attorney for one of the men found guilty on Wednesday of murdering Ahmaud Arbery, told Fox News that he plans to file a motion for a new trial next week for his client, William "Roddie" Bryan.
Bryan was found guilty by a jury in Glynn County, Georgia, on six of the nine counts that he was facing: three counts of felony murder, one count of aggravated assault, one count of false imprisonment and one count of criminal attempt to commit a felony.
He joined father and son Travis and Gregory McMichael in pursuing Arbery, a 25-year-old Black man, after seeing Arbery running in a neighborhood in February 2020.
Bryan drove in his own pickup truck and recorded video on a cellphone of the fatal encounter that shows Travis McMichael shooting and killing Arbery with a shotgun at close range as Arbery threw punches and tried to grab the gun.
Defense attorneys argued at trial that the three men were trying to detain Arbery because they thought he was a burglar, but the prosecution contended there was no evidence Arbery had committed any crimes.
Travis McMichael was found guilty of all nine charges, while Gregory McMichael was convicted on every count except for malice murder.
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Kevin Gough was a controversial figure during the 13-day trial, filing several motions for a mistrial that were all shot down by Superior Court Judge Timothy Walmsley.
Gough told the judge Nov. 11 that he didn't want "any more Black pastors" in the courtroom after Al Sharpton sat with Arbery's family, saying their presence may threaten his client’s right to a fair trial.
"Obviously, there’s only so many pastors they can have," Gough told the judge. "And if their pastor’s Al Sharpton right now that’s fine, but then that’s it."
Gough tried to frame his client as a witness to the pursuit at trial, asking lead investigator Richard Dial if Bryan’s video of the shooting was "consistent with someone who was a witness" instead of a participant.
"He wasn’t a witness," Dial, a Georgia Bureau of Investigation agent, replied. "It would be consistent that he was still pursuing Mr. Arbery, trying to box him in between two different vehicles."
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Gough asked late in the trial for his client's case to be severed and tried separately, but the defense pushed back on the attempt and it wasn't granted.
Neama Rahmani, a former federal prosecutor and president of West Coast Trial Lawyers, said that any motions for a new trial are likely to fail, but an argument that Bryan's case should have been severed from the McMichaels may be his best shot.
"They're going to file their appeals, criminal defendants always do, but it was a pretty clean case in my book," Rahmani told Fox News Digital.
"What you want as a criminal defense attorney — especially when you're representing a defendant who is arguably less culpable, and Bryan was arguably less culpable — is to sever him or her from the other defendants, because it's arguably prejudicial to be tried with Travis McMichael, who pulled the trigger, or Gregory, who said, ‘I’m going to blow your f------ head off,'" Rahmani said. "The severance is the best one."
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Bryan and the McMichaels are also facing federal hate crime charges in a case that's separate from the state murder charges that they were convicted of Wednesday. Jury selection is set to begin in the federal case in February.
"As far as next steps, obviously federal hate crime charges. Even if you're successful on appeal, good luck man, now you're dealing with the feds and the U.S. Attorney's Office and the DOJ," Rahmani said. "That's a whole other problem for them."
Fox News's Claudia Kelly-Bazan contributed to this report, as well as The Associated Press.