Roddie Bryan could probably use a new lawyer

AP Photo/Stephen B. Morton, Pool

Both the prosecution and the defense in the trial regarding the death of Ahmaud Arbery have rested and closing arguments are expected on Monday. One thing has become increasingly clear, however. Roddie Bryan’s attorney, Kevin Gough, is either crazy like a fox or too incompetent to be defending anyone in a court of law. I’m honestly not sure which. But the more we’ve seen of his performance thus far, the odder the entire situation appears. We only recently learned that Gough allegedly asked the prosecutors for a plea deal for Bryan before delivering closing arguments and resting the case, but prosecutors declined to offer him one. I say “allegedly” because the prosecution hasn’t confirmed this and the information was supposedly passed to Arbery’s mother, so it’s still unofficial. When asked about this by reporters, Gough said he didn’t know anything about it. (Okay… he actually said, “I don’t know what y’all are talking about.”)


In addition to that, he delivered a rambling speech in court this week complaining about the jury and asking for a mistrial. (The motion was denied.) His complaint about the jury, delivered when they were out of the courtroom, was that it didn’t contain enough “Bubbas or Joe six-packs.” And for this reason, he apparently believed that his client couldn’t receive a fair trial. (NBC News)

Kevin Gough, an attorney for William “Roddie” Bryan, has been condemned for trying to have “high-profile African Americans” thrown out of the courtroom, derided for his complaints that the jury didn’t contain enough “Bubbas or Joe six-packs” and admonished by the judge for equating Black faith leaders with klansmen.

Lee Merritt, who is representing Arbery’s mother, Wanda Cooper-Jones, said Gough’s statements, outside the ears of the jury, have become “more targeted, more persistent and more racist.”

On Nov. 11, Gough tried and failed to prevent “high-profile African Americans” like the Revs. Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson from being in the courtroom, alleging they would influence the jury.

Apparently Gough’s definition of a “Bubba” or a “Joe six-pack” is a white male above the age of 40 without a college education. How that demand was supposed to be helpful at this late stage of the proceedings is unclear, but one of the attorneys representing the Arbery family said he believes that Gough has been trying to “agitate” the Black community in the area to cause trouble and hopefully lead the judge to declare a mistrial.


Here’s a brief video of Gough going on a rant about the “woke left mob” gathered outside the courthouse. You can judge for yourself where he’s going with this.

If this is an example of Gough knowing his audience and angling for a mistrial based on past experience in this court, then… maybe the “crazy like a fox” theory is still in play? But somehow I doubt it.

Here’s the first question that came to my mind as I was reviewing these reports. Do you know why lawyers ask for a mistrial? Because they think they’re about to lose. But that wouldn’t be surprising if the reports of Gough asking for a plea deal turn out to be true. You don’t ask for a plea deal and have your client plead guilty to anything if you believe he’s about to be fully acquitted. Also, the prosecutors don’t generally take a plea deal at this late stage of the proceeding unless they’re worried that they’re going to lose the case. Turning down the request could be a signal that they believe they’ve got Bryan cornered and he will be found guilty.

There’s some other, interesting background information in the linked NBC News report that may or may not be relevant. In 2012 Gough landed a position as the public defender for the Brunswick Judicial Circuit. But in less than four years he was fired from that position, being accused of being “derelict” in his duties as a circuit public defender and failing to represent his clients appropriately. The executive director of the Georgia Public Defender Council told Gough that, “your own agenda has overshadowed any other issues that may exist.”


The linked report also reminds us that Gough went on CNN and told Chris Cuomo that Roddie Bryan wasn’t smart enough to testify on his own behalf.

“My client is a mechanic with a high school education, and if you’ve ever been to the high schools around here, that’s not necessarily saying much, OK?” Gough said at the time. “And I don’t mind if the board of education doesn’t like it.”

At the start of this trial, I wrote here that it seemed highly unlikely that any of the three defendants in this case could be convicted by a jury in Glynn County because of the history of racial tension and official corruption that exists there. But at this point, I’m no longer so sure. The case will likely be given to the jury by Tuesday, so we’ll know soon enough.

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