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Defense Attorney Under Fire For Bringing Up Ahmaud Arbery's Toenails In Closing Arguments
The comment prompted audible gasps and caused Ahmaud Arbery’s mother Wanda Cooper-Jones to leave the courtroom.
A defense attorney is under fire for a statement she uttered about Ahmaud Arbery during closing arguments in the trial for those accused of killing him.
"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," lawyer Laura Hogue told jurors on Monday, CNN reports.
Hogue is one of Gregory McMichael’s attorneys. Gregory and his son Travis McMichael pursued Arbery in a pickup truck after spotting him running in their neighborhood on Feb. 23, 2020. Their neighbor, William "Roddie" Bryan, joined the chase and recorded the video of Travis shooting Arbery as he grabbed for his shotgun.
The defendants have argued Arbery was ultimately at fault for the confrontation, saying they were trying to effect a citizen's arrest after believing the 25-year-old was a burglary suspect. Prosecutors have countered that notion, saying there was no evidence that Arbery was responsible for any crime in the Satilla Shores neighborhood of Brunswick, Georgia, and that the McMichaels and Bryan only gave chase "because he was a Black man running down their street."
Hogue’s comment not only provoked audible gasps in the courtroom but it upset Arbery’s mother Wanda Cooper-Jones so much she left courtroom.
"I gotta get out of here,” she said, according to CNN.
Later that day Monday, she told CNN that she was disturbed by the sentiment of Hogue’s comment.
"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.
She added that she believed the defense was just trying to deflect from their lack of “proper evidence" to prove Arbery was the aggressor in the fatal confrontation.
At least one expert says that the comment was not only rude but racist in nature.
Charles Coleman Jr., a civil rights attorney and former prosecutor, told CNN that the Hogue was trying to invoke the image of a"runaway slave,"
"Her word choice was intentional, her descriptions were unnecessary. And the description ultimately is inflammatory," Coleman told CNN.
He called it an "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.”
The final arguments wrapped up Monday in front of a jury that is “disproportionately white,” according to the Associated Press. All three accused are white while Arbery is Black and his slaying has prompted discussions about racial equality.
The jury has been released to begin deliberations on Tuesday.