The defense lawyer for George and Travis McMichael, two of the three white men accused of killing young Black jogger Ahmaud Arbery in Brunswick, Georgia last February, came under fire for their closing arguments in the trial that painted Arbery in a highly stereotypical and shocking display.
Laura Hough, representing George McMichael, painted a picture of Arbery in her closing arguments on Monday (November 22nd) that was unflattering to the point where she described him as wearing “khaki shorts, with no socks to cover his long, dirty toenails.” The statement elicited gasps from those in the courtroom gallery, which included Arbery’s mother, Wanda Cooper-Jones. As reported later, she arose and left the courtroom after Hough’s statement, saying “I gotta get out of here.” Hough didn’t stop there, her further arguments claiming that the 25-year old went “astray” and had “sinister intentions”.
Legal experts were left disturbed by Hough’s remarks. Charles F. Coleman, a legal analyst stated during an interview with CNN’s John Berman commented on Hough’s statement saying “What we saw was racism used as a legal strategy. What we saw in that moment was George McMichael’s attorney deciding to evoke images of a runaway slave in how she chose to characterize Ahmaud Arbery in that moment.” The trial is being held in Glynn County, where the population is 69% white and 12% Black but the jury has only one Black person out of 12.
Arbery’s mother was still upset afterward. “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. “It was disrespectful, it was horrific, and attorney Hogue should be ashamed of herself, to bring up his feet in the middle of trial. What is wrong with you?,” said civil rights attorney L. Chris Stewart after proceedings ended for the day.
The jury has now begun deliberations in the trial after ten days of proceedings which saw testimony from 23 witnesses. George and Travis McMichael, along with William “Roddie” Bryan, face charges of felony murder and malice due to Arbery’s killing. The trial has been highly publicized, with many sending their support to Arbery’s family.