Rep. Karen Bass (D-Calif.) said Sunday a trial against the three men accused of killing 25-year-old Ahmaud Arbery is “off to a bad start,” saying recent comments by a defense attorney were “despicable” while lambasting jury selection that allowed the body to be “pretty much” all-white during the case.
“When they were selecting the jury, remember, they selected pretty much an all-white jury,” the lawmaker said. “And then the judge acknowledged that that was a problem and allowed the jury to be seated anyway. So, I think that particular trial is off to a bad start.”
The lawmaker made the remarks in an interview with CNN’s Jake Tapper amid the highly watched trial into Arbery’s death. Three men, William “Roddie” Bryan, Gregory McMichael and his son, Travis McMichael, are accused of murdering Arbery in February 2020 as he was jogging through a neighborhood in Georgia. The three men face life sentences. The jury is comprised of 11 white members and one Black juror.
All three men have pleaded not guilty.
Tapper asked Bass about remarks made by lawyer Kevin Gough, who represents Bryan, last week, which drew fierce criticism after the attorney told the presiding judge he didn’t want any “high-profile members of the African American community” in the courtroom, claiming their presence could influence the jury.
“We don’t want any more Black pastors coming in here,” Gough said, referencing the presence of Rev. Al Sharpton, adding that such figures could be “intimidating.” Critics, Sharpton included, said they were disgusted with the comments, adding the idea that sitting in a courtroom could be intimidating fed into racist tropes that Black Americans are menacing.
Bass agreed Sunday, adding she was disappointed in the remarks after the spread of Black Lives Matter demonstrations last year.
“A year ago, we were talking about racial reckoning, and it seemed to be an enlightened period. And now we have had major setbacks,” Bass said on CNN’s “State of the Union.” “And I think that people understand that you can use race politically: It charges people up. It’s a highly emotional issue. And I think it’s just really sad. That trial … is a trial of a lynching.”
Gough later apologized in court to “anyone who might have inadvertently been offended,” but argued that he was working on behalf of his client.