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Ahamud Arbery’s mother stormed out of a Georgia courtroom in tears during closing arguments on Monday after a defense attorney told the nearly all-white jury that her son was a criminal with no socks and ‘long, dirty toenails.’
The comment made by Laura Hogue, representing defendant Gregory McMichael, elicited an audible gasp from the audience and the ire of Arbery’s family and supporters.
Prosecutors argued that Arbery, a black man, was out for a Sunday jog in a mostly white neighborhood in February 2020 when he was pursued by Travis McMichael, 35, his father, Gregory McMichael, 65, and their neighbor William ‘Roddie’ Bryan, 52, and killed with a shotgun.
In her closing arguments, Hogue sought to push back against the prosecution’s version of events, suggesting that Arbery was not an innocent jogger.
Defense attorney Laura Hogue sparked outrage during closing arguments in the Ahmaud Arbery murder trial when she described the victim’s ‘long, dirty toenails’
Upon hearing Hogue’s comments on Monday, Arbery’s mother, Wanda Cooper-Jones (left), got up and left after saying, ‘I gotta get out of here’
Cooper-Jones was in tears as she left the Glen County Magistrate Court in Brunswick, Georgia, on Monday
Marcus Arbery Sr, Ahmaud’s father, is pictured leaving the court. He later argued the defense was trying to besmirch his son out of desperation
‘Turning Ahmaud Arbery into a victim after the choices that he made does not reflect the reality of what brought Ahmaud Arbery to Satilla Shores in his khaki shorts with no socks to cover his long, dirty toenails,’ Hogue told jurors.
Arbery’s mother, Wanda Cooper-Jones, stood up and exited the courtroom after hearing Hogue’s remark, saying ‘I gotta get out of here.’
Prosecutors argued that Arbery, a black man, was out for a Sunday jog in a mostly white neighborhood in February 2020 when he was pursued by three white men and shot dead
She was photographing leaving the courthouse in tears.
During an interview with CNN’s John Berman on ‘AC 360,’ Cooper-Jones said she found Hogue’s comment very disturbing.
‘I thought it was very, very rude to talk about his long, dirty toenails and to totally neglect that my son had a huge hole in his chest when he was shot with that shotgun,’ she said.
Hogue’s remarks appear to be based on Arbery’s autopsy report, which states that the deceased man had ‘long and very dirty’ toenails.
Arbery’s father, Marcus Arbery Sr, suggested that the defense was trying to besmirch his son out of desperation.
‘We already know what she’s doing,’ the father said. ‘They don’t have any defense ground, so she’s trying anything. They’re desperate.’
Hogue alleged that Arbery was to blame for his own death because he refused to stop and talk to the MicMichaels, and then fled when threatened with police.
‘We understand the defense counsel has a job to do, however, some of the arguments that they’re relying on smacks to the tradition of racism, victim blaming and really just a lack of scrupulousness,’ Cooper-Jones’ attorney Lee Merritt told First Coast News. ‘I was personally rocked by some of the things said.’
Cooper-Jones said the defense lawyer’s comment about her son’s toenails was ‘very rude’
The jury in the Arbery murder retired on Tuesday morning to begin deliberations.
‘Start your deliberations with an open mind,’ Judge Timothy Walmsley told the overwhelmingly white jury. ‘Each of you must decide this case for yourself.’
There is only one black juror on the 12-member jury hearing the case, although about 25 percent of the 85,000 residents of Glynn County, where the trial is taking place, are black.
Since being sworn in more than two weeks ago, the jury has heard from more than two dozen witnesses, including Travis McMichael himself, the only defendant to take the stand, who said he fired his shotgun into Arbery in self defense.
All three defendants have pleaded not guilty to charges including murder, aggravated assault and false imprisonment for the killing in the coastal suburb of Satilla Shores on February 23, 2020.
The men said they had a right and a neighborly obligation to jump in their pickup trucks and chase Arbery to detain him under Georgia’s citizens’ arrest law, which was repealed after Bryan’s cellphone video of the shooting caused outrage.
Travis McMichael (pictured in court Thursday, Nov. 18, 2021) was the only defendant to take the stand, testifying that he fired his shotgun at close range at Arbery in self defense in what he said was the most traumatic event of his life
Travis McMichael, his father, Gregory McMichael (left), and neighbor William ‘Roddie’ Bryan Jr (right), have all pleaded not guilty to one count of malice murder, four of felony murder, two of aggravated assault, one of false imprisonment and one of criminal attempt to commit false imprisonment
Their lawyers argue they had reason to believe Arbery may have been connected to recent property crimes that had left the neighborhood on edge. No evidence ever emerged that Arbery ever stole anything on his frequent runs in a T-shirt and shorts through Satilla Shores.
Prosecutors from the Cobb County district attorney’s office began making their final rebuttal on Tuesday morning after a full day of closing arguments in Glynn County Superior Court, which has become the center of attention in the quiet old harbor town of Brunswick.
‘What right did they have to stop Ahmaud Abery?’ lead prosecutor Linda Dunikoski asked the jury. ‘None whatsoever.’
Dunikoski said the men simply did not have the reasonable suspicion to detain Arbery under the repealed law, and that Arbery had a constitutional right to not answer any of the questions the men shouted at him from their trucks.
Travis McMichael testified that he did not know what Arbery had been doing before running past the McMichaels’ driveway. And Arbery had nothing on him besides his jogging clothes and sneakers.
Travis McMichael’s lawyer said Arbery tried to fight McMichael by grabbing the shotgun, and so McMichael was justified in firing in self defense.
In the video recorded by Bryan, Arbery can be seen trying to wrestle a shotgun from Travis McMichael’s hands. After being shot three times by the younger McMichael, the video shows Arbery collapsing to the pavement. He died on the scene
Dunikoski said McMichael’s pointing a shotgun at Arbery in the first place amounted to aggravated assault, and someone cannot claim self defense if they are committing a felony, nor can anyone use excessive force in their own defense.
Bryan’s lawyer argued that Bryan was a simple-minded man who did not know the McMichaels had grabbed their guns when he jumped in his own pickup truck to join the chase.
Superior Court Judge Timothy Walmsley was expected to give the jury of 11 white men and women and one black man a lengthy set of instructions before they get the case. Those instructions will include a description of the citizen’s arrest law that was hashed out in heated arguments before the judge outside of the jury’s earshot.
‘We all talk about it’: Georgia community on edge ahead of verdict in Arbery killing
Henry Johnson, 60, can often be found weightlifting in the garage of his home near Brunswick, Georgia. When people walk by his house and ask, ‘Did you see today? Do you know what happened?’ he knows immediately what they are talking about.
At church services, at neighborhood cookouts and on morning walks, conversation is dominated by one topic: the murder trial of three white men who saw a black man, Ahmaud Arbery, running through their neighborhood in February 2020, chased him in their trucks and shot him dead after a brief struggle.
In the mostly white community of Satilla Shores on the outskirts of Brunswick where the three men lived and Arbery was shot, many people support their neighbors going free, arguing that the shooting was tragic but not criminal.
Arbery was shot three times after grappling with one of the defendants for his shotgun. The defendants have pleaded not guilty and said the shooting was self defense.
In the mostly black neighborhood of Boykin Ridge that Arbery called home, Johnson, a former neighbor, said most of the people he speaks to keep their opinions about the men to themselves. But in interviews other residents were more blunt: The three defendants should go to jail, they said.
The Boykin Ridge neighborhood is on edge ahead of the verdict, which could come this week. Residents know the world is closely watching the case and judging the outcome.
‘People are nervous,’ said Johnson, an aviation technician who was benchpressing close to 300 pounds (136 kg) on Monday. Arbery would often support him when he was lifting heavier weights, he said.
‘He was a good kid,’ Johnson said. ‘We jokingly called him the ‘running man’ because was always running by, doing sprints.’
Prosecutors say Arbery, 25, was on a Sunday afternoon jog when Gregory McMichael, 65 and his son Travis McMichael, 35, saw him pass their driveway and assumed the worst – that he was a criminal. Their neighbor William ‘Roddie’ Bryan, 52, joined them in chasing Arbery in an attempt to carry out a citizen’s arrest.
Deborah Ray, 72, a retired florist who lives in a cul-de-sac on Boykin Ridge Road, said Arbery would start his sprint training in the street next to her driveway.
‘It’s a shame about what happened to that young man,’ she told Reuters. ‘He’d call me Ms. Ray and wave as he went by. He loved everybody.
‘Of course we all talk about it,’ Ray, who is white, said of the trial. ‘When I’m on my walks I stop and chat and what-not with everyone. It’s friendly here. Everyone wants to know what you think will happen. I can’t judge anyone, but it was a terrible thing,’ she said.
Camisha Bowers, 24, a close friend of Arbery’s who grew up down the street from him on Boykin Ridge Drive, said the whole neighborhood is anxious about the verdict, which will be rendered by a jury of 11 white people and one black person.
‘All the attention of the world is on this. I just hope they do the right thing, you know,’ she said, adding that she wanted justice for her friend.
In the Satilla Shores neighborhood, there is a sense of a community under siege. ‘No trespassing’ signs have proliferated on trees and doors in recent weeks. ‘Go home,’ a number of residents said when approached for interviews. People said they were exhausted by the media attention.
‘The jury should send them home,’ one resident said of the three defendants before telling a Reuters reporter to leave.
Jay Wells, 61, who lives just around the corner from the shooting, said like most of his neighbors he feels bad about what happened but doesn’t believe ‘three men should have their lives ruined.’
‘It’s a tragedy any which way you look at it,’ Wells said. ‘I know a man is dead, but there are three men who might be locked up forever. And I can’t say that is right for the way this happened.’
Audra Favre, 53, a mortgage underwriter who moved to Satilla Shores just after the shooting, said that at neighborhood cookouts or when people are talking around their shared boat docks, the trial is ‘the topic.’
At the gatherings, she said almost everyone is in favor of not guilty verdicts for all of the men. ‘That’s not how I feel. I think they took the law into their own hands,’ she said.
But she added, ‘You have to understand, so many people around here know them, are friends with them.’
Source: Daily Mail