The jury will start the second day of deliberations in the Arbery case.
BRUNSWICK, Ga. — In her closing argument this week, Laura D. Hogue, a lawyer for Gregory McMichael, tried to persuade jurors that Ahmaud Arbery should not be considered a victim.
Turning Mr. Arbery into a victim after the choices that he made does not reflect the reality of what brought him to the Satilla Shores neighborhood in his khaki shorts with no socks “to cover his long, dirty toenails,” she said.
Ms. Hogue’s comments about Mr. Arbery’s toenails have sparked outrage among many observers, who said they amounted to a racist depiction of a Black man.
On Wednesday, the Rev. Al Sharpton echoed the criticism, as he stood with Mr. Arbery’s parents in front of the Glynn County Courthouse, where a jury was deliberating the fate of Mr. McMichael and the two other white men accused of murdering Mr. Arbery in February 2020.
“I’ve never sat in a courtroom where a victim was akin to an animal, talking about dirty toenails — like he was not even a human, but an animal,” said Mr. Sharpton, who said that he heard, at trial, “some of the most racist statements made in a court of law in the decades that I’ve been out here.”
“I’ve never sat in a courtroom where a victim was akin to an animal, talking about dirty toenails — like he was not even a human, but an animal,” said Rev. Al Sharpton, center. Credit…Nicole Craine for The New York Times
On Wednesday morning, Franklin J. Hogue, Ms. Hogue’s law partner and co-counsel for Mr. McMichael, sent a text message to a New York Times reporter addressing Ms. Hogue’s use of such language. Mr. Hogue noted that the prosecution had called Mr. Arbery a “jogger” in its opening statement, “implying that his purpose for visiting Satilla Shores” on the day of his death “was to to ‘jog.'”
Mr. Hogue said that the “only evidence” the prosecution presented about Mr. Arbery jogging was when he was captured on a surveillance camera running away from a partially constructed house he had been inside of. Moments before, a neighbor had called the police to notify them of Mr. Arbery’s presence in the house, which Mr. Arbery had visited numerous times before.
Mr. Hogue continued: “If one wants to rebut that scant evidence presented at trial, then for those on our jury who may actually jog — and some do, as we learned about them — they may find it a reason to doubt the state’s theory of ‘jogging’ to be reminded that this ‘jogger’ was wearing no socks and had unkempt feet.”
Ms. Hogue, whose practice is in Macon, is a well-known criminal defense attorney in Middle Georgia. According to her firm’s website, she is a former prosecutor and past president of the Macon Association of Criminal Defense Attorneys.
Ms. Hogue’s comments have sparked intense conversation among some of her fellow criminal defense attorneys in Georgia. Their job is to serve as zealous advocates for their clients. But some believe that she crossed a line with her comments about Mr. Arbery.
Tanya Miller, an Atlanta criminal defense lawyer who also served as a state and federal prosecutor, said that Ms. Hogue’s comments were “consistent with the dehumanization of Black people.”
Ms. Miller, who is Black, said that the characterization reminded her of the depiction of Black people in the film “Birth of a Nation,” in which “the Black man is this monster, lurking, salivating, waiting to steal your women,” she said. “It is a whistle.”