A sentence uttered by a defense attorney during the trial of those accused in the death of Ahmaud Arbery elicited an audible gasp from those in the courtroom on Monday, as well as outrage from his family and legal experts.
Gregory and Travis McMichael’s defense attorneys, who are charged with Arbery’s murder, have repeatedly attempted to portray Arbery as a criminal. Laura Hogue, one of Gregory McMichael’s lawyers, went even further on Monday.
“Making Ahmaud Arbery a victim because of the choices 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 was a black man. The three defendants, who also include William “Roddie” Bryan, are White and face charges including malice and felony murder in the death of Arbery on February 23, 2020, after chasing him in a neighborhood near Brunswick, Georgia. They have entered a not-guilty plea.
Wanda Cooper-Jones, Arbery’s mother, stood up and exited the courtroom after Hogue’s remark, saying, “I gotta get out of here.”
“I thought it was very, very rude to talk about his long, dirty toenails while completely ignoring the fact that my son was shot with that shotgun and had a huge hole in his chest,” she said. Cooper-Jones believes the defense is simply trying to divert attention away from the fact that they “do not have the proper evidence to obtain a conviction.”
“So they’re actually going to any length to get it, to get a conviction, which isn’t available to them,” she explained.
Legal experts were outraged by Hogues’ remark.
According to Charles Coleman Jr., a civil rights attorney and former prosecutor, Hogue used the opportunity to portray Arbery as a “runaway slave” at the time.
“Her word choice was deliberate, but her descriptions were superfluous. And, in the end, the description is inflammatory “Coleman stated. Coleman described it as a “attempt to sort of really trigger some of the racial tropes and stereotypes that may be deeply embedded in the psyche of some of the jurors.”
Glynn County, where the trial is being held, has 69 percent White residents and 27 percent Black residents. Only one of the twelve jurors is black.
“To bring up his feet in the middle of a trial was disrespectful and horrific, and attorney Hogue should be ashamed of herself. What’s the matter with you? “L. Chris Stewart, a civil rights attorney, stated
“Not only are you disrespecting Ahmaud, but you also know his mother is nearby. It was terrifying” Stewart stated his case. Hogue’s remark appears to be based on the forensic sciences division of the Georgia Bureau of Investigation’s autopsy of Arbery’s body, which states that “the toenails are long and very dirty.”
Former prosecutor Mark Eiglarsh said Hogue had the jury’s pulse.
“I personally found the defense lawyer’s comments extremely offensive,” Eiglarsh told Brown. “That said, I’m going to defend her right to make it, because it’s her job to do everything she can to get an acquittal, as long as it’s within the parameters of what the law allows.”
“As outrageous and offensive as I found it, I know she wouldn’t have made it if she didn’t believe it would resonate with those specific jurors,” Eiglarsh said. “And that’s exactly what she did.”
The defense attorneys’ closing statements on Monday come after ten days of proceedings and testimony from 23 witnesses.
Prosecutor Linda Dunikoski will make her rebuttal on Tuesday.