Breaking News
More () »

'I finally got the chance to see the shotgun that killed my son' | Reverend Jesse Jackson comforts Ahmaud Arbery's parents as shotgun shown in court

Several employees with the Georgia Bureau of Investigation testified Monday. They described evidence including the shotgun used to kill Ahmaud Arbery.

BRUNSWICK, Ga. — On the seventh day of testimony in the murder trial in the death of Ahmaud Arbery Monday, several employees with the Georgia Bureau of Investigation testified. 

The state's witnesses included special agents people who work in the state's crime lab in forensic sciences. 

Jesse Worley, who works in the Division of Forensic Sciences for the GBI as a latent print examiner, testified she tested William Roddie Bryan's truck for hand and finger prints. She said she found Arbery's prints from his right hand on the truck.

Special Agent Lawrence Kelly specializes in gathering data from cell phones, and from social media. Kelly analyzed the three defendants' phone records. He testified that Bryan didn't have communication with Gregory or Travis on or before the day of the shooting.

Prosecutors played video of the shooting that had been lightened and slowed down by a forensic investigator, then sent back to Kelly. Kelly described the videos as they played. Wanda Cooper-Jones, Arbery's mother, was seen closing her eyes as the video played.

The Reverend Jesse Jackson, who sat in between Arbery's parents in the courtroom Monday, offered his hand to Cooper-Jones as the video played. Jurors were seen paying close attention to the video.

Brian Leppard with the GBI crime lab also testified. He's a firearms and took mark examiner, meaning he routinely determines if a bullet was fired from a specific weapon. The handgun that Gregory McMichael had during the shooting and the shotgun that Travis McMichael used during the shooting were both submitted to Leppard for analysis. 

Both guns were made safe by the sheriff's office before Leppard started describing them to the court. As Leppard held the shotgun and explained what it takes to load and fire it, several jurors took notes.

Jackson sat in between Cooper-Jones and Marcus Arbery Sr. and had his arms around both of them. Arbery was visibly upset and ended up leaving the courtroom.

“I finally got a chance to see the shotgun that killed my son," Cooper-Jones said. "I often imagined how the firearm looked and I was finally able to see the actual weapon, so that was kind of hard to process, but I was granted the opportunity to see it."

Leppard also testified that the shotgun was extremely close to Arbery's armpit when it was fired judging from the large hole in Arbery's shirt. Leppard said that hold was made by the large amount of gas coming out of the shotgun. 

Defense attorney Bob Rubin asked Leppard who asked him to examine the T-shirt Arbery was wearing the day of the shooting. Leppard said the Cobb County District Attorney's Office asked him to almost a year after the shooting. He said they wanted him to determine the muzzle to target distance.

Rubin asked based on his analysis that he got from the medical examiner's office if Leppard thought the shotgun was in arms reach of Arbery. 

"I think it's reasonable to say if the end of the shotgun could touch your shirt if you were the victim, then it would be reasonable to think that you could also grab the shotgun," Leppard replied.

Prosecutors will call their next witness, the medical examiner, Tuesday morning at nine a.m.

According to Travis McMichael's attorney, Jason Sheffield, he thinks the defense could start calling its witnesses by Wednesday at the earliest. Sheffield said he thinks closing statements will start the week of Thanksgiving.

He said if that's the case, then his team will ask the judge to move closing arguments until after Thanksgiving. 

"We don’t want the jurors to be focused on the lives of our clients when they’re focused on cooking Thanksgiving dinner," Sheffield said.

Tuesday morning, Black pastors from Brunswick will address statements defense attorney Kevin Gough made last week. After the Reverend Al Sharpton was in the courtroom last week, Gough said, "We don't want any more Black pastors coming in here," suggesting they would influence the jury. 

Pastors from across the country are now planning to come to Brunswick Thursday and throughout the week to support Arbery's family. 

Gough made a motion Monday for a mistrial, saying the people inside and outside the courthouse haven't allowed for a fair trial for the defendants. Gough specifically called out Jackson's presence in the courtroom Monday.

The motion came after Arbery's mother was heard crying out when her neighbor testified. She said she got emotional because her neighbor was one of the last people to see Arbery alive. Defense attorneys say after Cooper-Jones' outburst, jurors noticed Jackson comforting her. That prompted the attorneys for the other two defendants to join the motion for a mistrial.

"Having jurors hear and see and visualize the emotion, and now to be comforted by someone for whom respect abounds, we're in a very difficult position now with this jury to have seen and heard and felt that,” Gregory McMichael's attorney Laura Hogue said.

"There were several jurors that did look over," Travis McMichael's attorney, Jason Sheffield, said. "Their faces changed. The emotion, the sympathy that they felt, and to see then Mr. Reverend Jackson, whose autographed picture hung in my autographed picture hung in my mother's law office for two decades. Who is the the ultimate figure of fairness and justice and equality. To see that, I don't think it gets any higher in terms of the impression that that makes."

The judge denied the motion for a mistrial, saying he'd deal with distractions on a case-by-case basis. Judge Timothy Walmsley took a break when he heard Cooper-Jones to restore order in the court, he said. 

"It is an emotional trial," he said. "That is not unique when it comes to murder trials which is why the court prefaces a lot of murder trials with, 'I don’t want any outbursts from the gallery.'" 

"So, again to the gallery, I don’t want any outbursts from the gallery. This is not the place for it. We’re trying to get a fair trial for the defendants," Walmsley added. 

The judge also told the attorneys, specifically Gough, their words have meaning in the courtroom. He said Gough's comments last week were reprehensible, and may have prompted Jackson and others to come to Brunswick. 

As for Jackson's response, he said he had a moral obligation to support Arbery's family. He said Gough is trying to create a diversion because he has a weak case.

Before You Leave, Check This Out