Wanda Cooper-Jones gave an emotional victim impact statement at the sentencing of Travis McMichael, Gregory McMichael and William “Roddie” Bryan Jr. på fredag
Ahmaud Arbery’s mother said her son would have cut his toenails “if he knew he would be murdered that day” as she delivered an emotional victim impact statement at the sentencing of his three murderers.
Wanda Cooper-Jones spoke at Glynn County Courthouse in Brunwick, Georgia, on Friday morning about the toll her 25-year-old son’s brutal murder at the hands of Travis McMichael, Gregory McMichael and William “Roddie” Bryan Jr. has had on her family’s life.
Ms Cooper-Jones referenced comments made by one of the defence attorneys at trial where they described her son’s “long, dirty toenails” which sparked outcry over the attempt to paint Mr Arbery as a criminal and not a victim.
“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,” Gregory McMichael’s lawyer Laura Hogue said in closing arguments, referencing the autopsy report which described Mr Arbery’s toenails as “long and very dirty”.
Ms Cooper-Jones choked back tears as she referenced the derogatory comments.
“I wished he had cut and cleaned his toenails when he went out on the jog that day," hun sa
“I guess he would have if he’d known he would be murdered that day.”
She began her statement speaking “directly to my son” and told him that raising him was “the honour of my life”.
“This verdict doesn’t bring you back but it does help bring closure to this very difficult chapter of my life," hun sa.
“I made a promise to you the day I laid you to rest. I told you I loved you and that some day somehow I would get you justice.
“Son, I love you as much today as the day you were born. Raising you was the honour of my life and I am very proud of you.”
Ms Cooper-Jones asked the court to sentence all three men to life without the possibility of parole.
“These men have chose to lie and attack my son and his surviving family, they each have no remorse and don’t deserve any leniency," hun sa.
“This wasn’t a case of mistaken identity. They chose to target my son because they didn’t want him in their community… and when they couldn’t sufficiently scare him or intimidate him they killed him.”
På 23 februar 2020, the three white men chased the Black man, who was unarmed, through the Satilla Shores neighbourhood in Brunswick, Georgia, in their pickup trucks, trapping him with their vehicles before Travis McMichael shot him dead in the road.
Ms Cooper-Jones has waited almost two years for her son’s killers to be brought to justice after they evaded prosecution for months in the aftermath of the February 2020 murder – only being arrested when footage of the attack was leaked on social media.
The three white men were found guilty in November on multiple state charges including murder and will be sentenced on Friday to life in prison.
In his victim impact statement, Mr Arbery’s father Marcus Arbery told the court “my heart always will be broken” but vowed to “fight” for the legacy of his son.
He described watching the father and son duo Travis and Gregory McMichael sitting together in the courtroom while he will never see his son again.
“The man who killed my son has sat in this courtroom every single day next to his father," han sa.
“I’ll never get that chance of sitting next to my son ever again, not at the dinner table, not at the holidays and not anywhere.”
Han la til: “I feel they should stay behind bars the rest of their lives.”
Ahead of Friday’s sentencing, Ms Cooper-Jones said outside the courthouse that she wants Travis McMichael to spend the rest of his life behind bars.
“Ahmaud didn’t get a chance to live. So with that being said, Travis should not get a chance to live as a free man. Travis should go to prison for life without parole and … he should remain in prison forever," hun fortalte CNN.
Ms Cooper-Jones sat in the courthouse throughout the trial and was seen breaking down in tears as the court was shown her son’s white T-shirt stained red with blood and graphic photos of his dead body.
She said on Friday that she doesn’t “want to hear anything from Travis” in the courtroom, saying that hearing the man who pulled the trigger take the stand at his trial made her feel even worse.
“I really don’t want to hear anything from Travis. I really don’t want to hear anything from either defendants," hun sa.
“There’s nothing that they can tell me today that would make me feel better. I miss Ahmaud more and more each day.”
Tidligere denne uken, Ms Cooper-Jones rejected an 11th-hour plea deal for the three men which would have sentenced them to 30 years in federal prison on hate crimes charges.
The killers face a separate federal trial, set to begin in February, on hate crime charges which accuse the three men of using force to intimidate and interfere with Mr Arbery’s rights because of his race. They face life in prison on these federal charges.
Mr Merritt said the family was contacted by the Justice Department with the plea deal but turned it down because she wants them to also face trial on the federal charges.
“We believe that today the state will move forward with life sentences without the possibility of parole, and we think that’s the appropriate sentence,” Mr Merritt said.
The three killers each face mandatory minimum sentences of life in prison for their state murder charges but the judge will decide on Friday whether they will be granted life with or without the possibility of parole.
Even with the possibility of parole, they will not be eligible for release for at least 30 years under Georgia law.
All three men were charged with nine counts, including one count of malice murder, four counts of felony murder, two counts of aggravated assault, one count of false imprisonment and one count of criminal attempt to commit false imprisonment.
Travis McMichael was convicted on all charges, Gregory McMichael of eight charges excluding the count of malice murder and Bryan of six charges – three counts of felony murder, one count of aggravated assault, one count of false imprisonment and one count of criminal attempt to commit false imprisonment.
Following the verdict, Ms Cooper-Jones told a crowd of supporters outside the courthouse that she had believed she would never get justice for her son.
“To tell the truth, I never saw this day back in 2020. I never thought this day would come. But God is good," hun sa.