Defense Lawyer's Remark on Arbery's Toenails Spurs Outrage

'Beyond rude,' is how Arbery's mother characterized Laura Hogue's comment
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Nov 23, 2021 6:47 AM CST
Defense Lawyer in Arbery Trial Takes Heat for 'Rude' Remark
Defense attorney Laura Hogue speaks during the trial of Gregory McMichael, his son, Travis McMichael, and a neighbor, William "Roddie" Bryan, at the Glynn County Courthouse on Monday in Brunswick, Ga.   (Sean Rayford/Pool Photo via AP)

(Newser) – The trial over the shooting death of 25-year-old Ahmaud Arbery continues, and on Monday, one of the defense attorneys found herself taking heat for a comment she made about Arbery's appearance. Per 11Alive, Laura Hogue, who's representing Gregory McMichael, stood up during closing arguments and insisted that what prosecutors say happened on Feb. 23, 2020, in Brunswick, Ga.—when Arbery, a Black man, was gunned down while jogging through the Satilla Shores neighborhood after being chased by McMichael and two other white men—isn't how she sees it. "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 declared.

That comment brought a strong reaction from Wanda Cooper-Jones, Arbery's mother, who was in the Glynn County courtroom for the murder trial. "Wow," Cooper-Jones was heard saying, followed by, "I gotta get out of here," reports CNN, which notes that an "audible gasp" could be heard from others in the room when Hogue made her remark. "My son actually was running for his life in that description," Cooper-Jones said in a news conference later that day, per 11Alive, calling Hogue's comment "beyond rude."

Hogue—who appeared to have based her statement on the autopsy of Arbery's body, which stated that "the toenails are long and very dirty"—told the courtroom she expected that her description of Arbery would be "unpopular," per the Washington Post. CNN notes the defense for McMichael and the other two defendants, his son, Travis McMichael, and friend William "Roddie" Bryan, has continually tried to paint Arbery as a criminal throughout the trial. Marcus Arbery, Ahmaud's father, calls that depiction "really hurtful," per 11Alive, though others say that portrayal, and Hogue's comment in particular, go beyond hurt feelings.

"Her word choice was intentional, her descriptions were unnecessary," civil rights attorney Charles Coleman Jr. tells CNN. Coleman says Hogue's remarks seemed to be an attempt to "trigger some of the racial tropes and stereotypes that may be deeply embedded in the psyche of some of the jurors" (only one of the 12 jurors in the case is Black). Others agree with Coleman's assessment, per Heavy.com. "The constant disrespect of Black bodies and disregard for our humanity is deplorable," one critic tweeted, noting Hogue "should be ashamed of herself." (Read more Ahmaud Arbery stories.)

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