A lawyer for one of the defendants in the Ahmaud Arbery murder case has argued a face mask with George Floyd's name on it should be banned in court. During a pretrial hearing in the ongoing murder case, a defense lawyer for suspect William "Roddie" Bryan said that the lawyer for Arbery's family, S. Lee Merritt, should not be allowed to wear his face mask, NBC News reports. During the case, Merritt appeared in court with a face mask that reads "George Floyd" on numerous occasions.
"If we are permitted to wear masks making political statements, then Mr. Evans and I and his office should be free to wear 'MAGA' masks if we wanted to in the courtroom," said Bryan's defense attorney Kevin Gough, referencing Trump's "Make America Great Again" campaign slogan. "I imagine the court wouldn’t appreciate that. And I think the same rules should apply and any political statements whether on masks, on lapels, bumper stickers, T-shirts. Whatever people (wear), this is not the place for political statements." He argued that the only masks or face coverings allowed in court should be "content-neutral."
When the topic was raised, Chatham County Judge Timothy Walmsley said that he had not noticed Merritt's mask, overruling the defense's request. "I'm not one for games," he told Gough. "If anything the court becomes disruptive, it's the court's position that that disruption will be dealt with. This is not a place to make a statement."
During the same pretrial appearance, Gough asked the judge to set bail for Bryan. Prosecutor Jesse Evans replied by pointing out that Bryan is facing a long prison sentence if he is convicted, and he also highlighted text messages from his phone that he has frequently used racist language in text messages. Evans proceeded to quote an alleged text of Bryan's that read, "Working like an 'N' today."
William "Roddie" Bryan is one of three men indicted by a Georgia grand jury on murder charges in the Ahmaud Arbery murder case last month. Gregory McMichael and his son Travis McMichael are the other two charged with the killing of Arbery, who was fatally shot in Brunswick, Georgia on Feb. 23. The McMichaels pursued Arbery, claiming that he resembled a burglary suspect. His family said that he was out for a jog at the time. Bryan has been accused of using his pickup truck to box Arbery in at the time of the killing.
Arbery's mother Wanda Cooper-Jones asked the judge to keep Bryan locked up. "He does not believe there's anything wrong with what he did," she said. "He wants this court to allow him to go home. I am asking this court to say, 'No,' He cannot go home. He did not allow my son to go home."
The three suspects in the case have all pleaded not guilty.