A lawyer for one of the white men standing trial in the death of Ahmaud Arbery told the judge he did not want to see “any more black pastors” in the courtroom.
evin Gough, representing William Bryan, made the comment after the Reverend Al Sharpton sat with the slain man’s family.
Bryan, along with father and son Greg and Travis McMichael, is charged with murder and other crimes in the killing of Mr Arbery on February 23 last year.
The 25-year-old black man was chased and fatally shot after the defendants spotted him running in their neighbourhood outside the Georgia port city of Brunswick.
Mr Gough told Superior Court Judge Timothy Walmsley that he was concerned Rev Sharpton’s presence in court on Wednesday was an attempt to intimidate the disproportionately white jury hearing the case.
The jury was not in the courtroom when he made the remarks.
He said: “Obviously there’s only so many pastors they can have.
“And if their pastor’s Al Sharpton right now that’s fine, but then that’s it. We don’t want any more Black pastors coming in here … sitting with the victim’s family, trying to influence the jurors in this case.”
Jason Sheffield, one of Travis McMichael’s lawyers, told the judge he did not notice any distractions caused by Rev Sharpton, who sat in the back row of the courtroom gallery wearing a mask.
Mr Gough said he did not realise Rev Sharpton had been there until after court had adjourned for the day.
“You weren’t even aware of it until later?” the judge said. “I’m not sure what we’re doing.”
Rev Sharpton held a prayer vigil and news conference outside the Glynn County courthouse on Wednesday afternoon to show support for Mr Arbery’s family.
Afterwards, he joined Mr Arbery’s parents and their lawyers to listen to portions of the trial testimony.
Rev Sharpton said in a statement that Mr Gough’s remarks showed “arrogant insensitivity”.
“I respect the defence attorney doing his job,” he said, “but this is beyond defending your client, it is insulting the family of the victim.”