Mother of Ahmaud Arbery calls attorney’s ‘long dirty toenails’ comment ‘very disturbing’

"He didn't deserve to die the way that he died," she said.

The mother of Ahmaud Arbery was shocked at defense attorney Laura Hogue during closing arguments on Monday when she told the jury that Ahmaud had “no socks to cover his long, dirty toenails” at the time of his death. 

“I didn’t expect them to go that low,” Wanda Cooper-Jones told CBS Mornings.

“I’ll just say this, regardless of how long and how dirty his toenails were, that’s still my son, and he didn’t deserve to die the way that he died,” she said.

As previously reported, Hogue told jurors Monday, “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 khaki shorts, with no socks to cover his long dirty toenails.” 

“There were two sets of decision-makers on Feb. 23,” Hogue continued. “It was not just the McMichaels’ decision that led to this tragedy.”

Hogue represents Gregory McMichael, a former police officer who, along with his son Travis McMichael, chased Aurbery in a pickup truck on February 23, 2020, in Brunswick, Georgia after determining he was a criminal. Travis fatally shot Arbery, while a neighbor, William “Roddie” Bryan, filmed the killing.

Left to right: Greg McMichael, Travis McMichael and William “Roddie” Bryan Jr.(Photo: Glynn County Sheriff’s Office via AP)

All three were found guilty of murder by an all-white jury on Wednesday. They were also indicted on separate federal hate crime and kidnapping charges, for which they will stand trial in February. The men all face life in prison.

Cooper-Jones reacted to Hogue’s presentation, saying, “Wow…I’ve got to get out of here,” leaving the courtroom briefly afterward.

“She described Ahmaud as his long legs and his dirty long toenails,” Cooper-Jones said at Monday’s press conference, 11 Alive reports. “That was just beyond rude. Regardless of what kind of toenails he had, what size legs he had, that was still my son. And my son actually was running for his life in that description. I thought that was just, flat-out just rude.”

Defense attorneys argued the defendants were trying to conduct a citizen’s arrest on Arbery, which was legal in the state at the time. 

Wanda Jones-Cooper, Ahmaud Arbery
Wanda Jones-Cooper with her son, Ahmaud Arbery (Personal Family Picture)

“I think if the jurors paid very, very close attention, took very good notes then they’ll see what happened to Ahmaud on that day,” Cooper-Jones said.

“He was running on county roads, on public roads. Ahmaud wasn’t doing anything wrong,” she said. 

As reported by NBC News, Hon. Timothy Walmsley informed the jury Tuesday that a “private citizen’s warrantless arrest must occur immediately after the perpetration of the offense, or in the case of felonies during escape.” 

“If the observer fails to make the arrest immediately after the commission of the offense, or during escape in the case of felonies, his power to do so is extinguished,” he said.

Hogue’s toenail remarks came during her closing arguments as she also blamed Arbery for the circumstances that led to his death.

“No one but Ahmaud Arbery made the decision to either reach for or certainly give the very real impression that he was reaching for a handgun,” she told the jury.

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