Laura Hogue: defense lawyer sparks outrage for referring to Ahmaud Arbery’s nails in pleadings
Defense attorneys for Gregory and Travis McMichael, who were convicted on Wednesday of murder and other charges, have repeatedly attempted to portray Arbery as a criminal. On Monday, Laura Hogue, one of Gregory McMichael’s lawyers, went further.
“Turning Ahmaud Arbery into a victim after 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 fingernails,” Hogue told jurors.
Arbery was black. The three defendants, including William “Roddie” Bryan, are white and faced malice and felony murder charges in the murder of Arbery after chasing him to a neighborhood near Brunswick, Ga., On the 23rd. February 2020.
Arbery’s mother, Wanda Cooper-Jones, stood up and left the courtroom after Hogue’s remark, saying “I have to get out of here.”
Later Monday, she told CNN’s John Berman on “AC 360” that the comment was very disturbing.
“I thought it was very, very rude to talk about his long dirty fingernails and totally overlook the fact that my son had a huge hole in his chest when he was shot with that shotgun,” he said. she declared.
The defense is simply trying to get around the fact that it “doesn’t have the proper evidence to get a conviction,” Cooper-Jones said.
“So they are taking all measures to get it, to get a conviction, which is not there for them,” she said.
Legal expert says comment used racist tropes
Legal experts objected to Hogue’s comment.
At that point, Hogue took the opportunity to portray Arbery as a “runaway slave,” said Charles Coleman Jr., civil rights lawyer and former prosecutor.
“His choice of words was intentional, his descriptions were unnecessary. And the description is ultimately inflammatory,” Coleman told CNN’s Pamela Brown on “The Lead with Jake Tapper.”
It was an “attempt to really trigger some of the racial tropes and stereotypes that may be deeply embedded in the psyche of some jurors,” Coleman told Brown.
Glynn County, where the trial is taking place, is made up of 69% white residents and 27% black. Only one of the 12 jurors is black.
“It was disrespectful, it was horrible, and lawyer Hogue should be ashamed of herself, for stepping up in the middle of the trial. What’s wrong with you?” Said civil rights lawyer L. Chris Stewart.
“Not only disrespecting Ahmaud, but you know his mother is right there. It was horrible,” said Stewart.
Hogue’s comment appears to be based on the autopsy of Arbery’s body by the forensic science division of the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, which states that “the toenails are long and very dirty.”
Former prosecutor Mark Eiglarsh said Hogue had the pulse of the jury.
“I found the defense attorney’s comments, personally, extremely offensive,” Eiglarsh told Brown. “Having said that, I will defend her right to do so, because her job is to do whatever she can to get an acquittal, as long as it stays within what the law allows.”
“As outrageous and offensive as I found it personally, I know she wouldn’t have done it if she didn’t think it would resonate with these jurors in particular,” Eiglarsh said. “And that’s what she did.”
Monday’s defense lawyers‘ closing statements followed 10 days of proceedings and testimony from 23 witnesses.
The Glynn County jury deliberated for more than 11 hours before delivering a verdict on Wednesday.
This story has been updated with additional details.