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'That was just beyond rude' | Ahmaud Arbery's mother reacts to defense attorney saying Arbery had 'long, dirty toenails'

Gregory McMichael's attorney, Laura Hogue, made the comment during her closing arguments.

BRUNSWICK, Ga. — During her closing arguments, Gregory McMichael's attorney, Laura Hogue, appeared to blame Ahmaud Arbery for his own death. 

She repeated the line, "No one but Ahmaud Arbery" when talking about his choices not to stop and talk to the McMichaels and to run when Travis McMichael told him the police were on their way.

Hogue continued saying Arbery didn't have a friend or a girlfriend living in Satilla Shores. 

"He was a reoccurring nighttime intruder," Hogue said.

She then made a comment that caused Arbery's mother, Wanda Cooper-Jones to bolt out of the courtroom.

"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 argued. 

According to the pool reporter inside the courtroom, Cooper-Jones as overheard saying "I gotta get out of here," as she left the courtroom.

"When I heard prosecutor ... the Hogues, she described Ahmaud as his long legs and his dirty, long toenails, that was just beyond rude," Cooper-Jones said. "Regardless of what kind of toenails he had, what size legs he had, that was still my son and my son was actually running for his life in that description and I thought was flat out just rude."

Arbery's father, Marcus Arbery Sr., echoed Cooper-Jones' thoughts.

"The way they’re trying to characterize his name … it’s just really hurting to the mom and me because we already know how he grew up," Arbery Sr. said. "He grew up with everything he needed, so she can go on with that. We already know what she’s doing they don’t have any defense ground, so she’s trying anything. They're desperate."

“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 added. "I was personally rocked by some of the things said …  we’re glad today is over. We will not have to hear from them again."

In the state's closing arguments, prosecutor Linda Dunikowski repeated a line from her opening statements: The defendants made driveway decisions the day of the shooting. She said they assumed the worst about Arbery, leading to his death.

Dunikowski also said a self-defense argument wasn't justified because the defendants provoked Arbery. She compared the defendants to schoolyard bullies who encounter someone who fights back. 

“What did Mr. Arbery do? He ran away from them for five minutes," Dunikowski said. "That’s what he did with his hands out at his sides with his baggy shorts on, no weapon, no threats, no way to call for help. He didn’t even have his cell phone."

"The state’s position is all three defendants made assumptions about what happened that day and made a decision to attack Ahmaud Arbery in their driveways because he was a Black man running down the street," she added.

Travis McMichael's attorney, Jason Sheffield, countered, saying Travis McMichael was scared as he said Arbery was "charging" at him. Sheffield said Travis did what he did because he felt a sense of duty to his family and community.

"He's [Travis] afraid he [Arbery] will be on him in a matter of seconds," Sheffield said. "He is afraid he will beat him with his fists or whatever weapon he might have and he’s scared and so he has done what he believes the law has allowed him to do, which is to try to deescalate that approach by showing force. Showing force when necessary to prevent Travis himself or his father from getting beaten and possibly killed."

"Duty and responsibility and following the law will always be intertwined with heartache and tragedy," Sheffield added.

Dunikowski argued the defendants didn't have probable cause to conduct a citizen's arrest because they didn't witness a crime and didn't have direct knowledge of a crime. 

Sheffield said Travis McMichael did have probable cause due to his "horrifying experience" with Arbery at the home under construction a week and a half before the shooting, seeing Arbery on the surveillance video inside the home and knowledge that items were stolen from the boat at the house. 

Sheffield brought up Travis' time in the Coast Guard, saying he helped people in need, and asked the jurors to help Travis now.

“Will you do as he has done in the past to others," Sheffield said. "Will you reach out your hand and extend it to Travis McMichael and pull him out of those waters? I think that if you’ve heard anything that I’ve said there’s only one decision: He's not guilty on all charges."

Sheffield again painted Satilla Shores as a neighborhood on edge due to property crimes in the area before Arbery's death in his closing arguments. He also reminded jurors that Travis McMichael was trained in the Coast Guard to use his weapon to deescalate situations. 

"There is no evidence that Ahmaud Arbery jogged for exercise in Satilla Shores," Sheffield said at one point. 

Sheffield asked the jurors if they had gone into a home under construction to look at it and got ran off the property, describing Travis' encounter with Arbery a week and a half before the shooting, "Are you ever going to go back there again?" 

Sheffield argued Arbery wasn't going back to the home on Feb. 23, 2020 for a "lawful reason." 

Sheffield also told jurors Travis wishes he would've done anything but what he did the day of the shooting. However, Sheffield maintained this doesn't mean what Travis did wasn't allowed by law. 

Also Monday, William Roddie Bryan's attorney, Kevin Gough, filed a motion to sever, meaning he asked that Bryan get a separate trial. Gough threatened to file the motion for weeks. The judge denied the motion, saying it's not timely.

Gough also filed his seventh motion for a mistrial Monday. This one was based on groups like The Lion of Judah Armed Forces and the Black Panther Party demonstrating outside the courthouse Monday. Gough cited the prop coffin outside, and rifles some members were carrying around. 

"This is no longer a figurative mob," Gough said. "This is a literal mob."

The judge denied the motion. The judge did say he will continue to check with jurors if they've encountered any interaction with demonstrators or have been affected by outside influences. 

"There has been a community here trying to provide support for justice, but particularly as the defense attorneys seem to focus their attention on the gallery and on Ms. Cooper-Jones and on Mr. Arbery, there has been a community of supporters here praying, supporting, offering words of encouragement," Merritt said. 

"While we appreciate those people, as we come near the end of the trial, those demonstrations have become somewhat more bombastic with props and marches and other things. We just ask the community of supporters as we near the end of the trial, try to do whatever you can to avoid interfering with the actual trial taking place inside of the courtroom. We appreciate the support. The community’s presence here has been a great encouragement to the family, but we cannot allow anything to disrupt justice in this case," Merritt sffrf.

The state will have a two hour rebuttal starting at 8:30 a.m. Tuesday. Then, the jury will get the case. 

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