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Wanda Cooper-Jones speaks out as jury deliberates in Arbery death case
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Sitting in the back of the courtroom Wanda Cooper-Jones listened as lawyers spoke about her son. Cooper-Jones is the mother of Ahmaud Arbery, a black man killed by three white men on Feb. 23, 2020 in Brunswick.

“At this point I feel that we are near the finish line,” Cooper-Jones told the Courier in an exclusive interview. “It started back 18 months ago and we are now here in November 2021. We are in the final days of trial and I am hoping that it goes by fast, but I am also hoping for the correct verdict.”

The trial which started on Oct. 18 is now in the hands of the jury.

The prosecutors argued that Travis McMichael, Gregory McMichael and William Bryan hunted Arbery down chasing him with their trucks until they had him, “trapped like a rat.” The state pointed to evidence indicating the three men provoked fear into Arbery as they chased and hit him with pickup trucks. Prosecutor Linda Dunikoski said the defendants action meant they can’t legally claim self-defense. The state used the men’s own words to show Arbery was being falsely imprisoned by having him be “cornered,” and “angled” as Arbery attempted to run for his life. The state also mentioned that neither defendant ever informed Arbery they were attempting to make a citizen’s arrest, the main basis for their defense.

Attorneys for the defendants argued their clients were looking out for their neighbor and doing a good deed fearing Arbery was the person responsible for some recent break-ins. They argued that Arbery caused his own death when he failed to stop and be compliant with their defendants’ orders. The attorneys for Travis McMichael said their client killed Arbery in self-defense after Arbery reached for his shotgun.

The defense attorneys claim their clients were the victims and Arbery was a nefarious burglar terrorizing the neighborhood. Attorney Laura Hogue one of Gregory McMichael’s attorneys, referred to Arbery as a “recurring nighttime intruder” and implied he had bad intentions when he arrived “in his khaki shorts with no socks to cover his long, dirty toenails,” a remark that drew gasps from those in the courtroom, including Cooper-Jones.

“It was very disturbing and I thought it was very rude,” Cooper Jones told reporters later. “To talk about his long dirty toenails and to totally neglect that my son had a huge hole in his chest where he was shot with a shotgun. She chose not to recognize that but to instead pay attention to his long toenails. I sat there for the last twoweeks and heard them dehumanize my son.”

Cooper-Jones spoke with the Courier and said she was glad she found the courage to sit in for the trial.

“It was very hard, sitting there and seeing my youngest son just lying in the middle of the street,” she said. “But I can also say that I was thankful for the chance to see what actually happened because I questioned it. I asked the Lord to tell me what happened to Ahmaud and I finally got a chance to see what happened in the final minutes of his life.”

Cooper-Jones said the theatrical antics of Kevin Gough, the attorney representing Bryan, were expected. Gough had called for several mistrials arguing that high-profile pastors like Al Sharpton and Jessie Jackson, who attended a few days of the trial, meant his client would not receive a fair trial. At one point Gough told the judge, “We don’t want anymore black pastors,” in the courtroom.

Cooper-Jones said Gough made certain statements knowing it would trigger a certain response which he would then try and use in favor of his client.

“It wasn’t shocking at all,” she said. “At that point he was using any type of measure he could to get a mistrial.”

She added she was frustrated by Detective Stephan Lowry who had originally called her to say her son was killed when confronted during the commission of a burglary.

“But as time went on, days passed and weeks passed, I found out that Ahmaud was killed in the middle of the street. He wasn’t committing a burglary…so yes I wanted to hear his testimony,” she said.

Lowry testified he, was not aware of Arbery being involved in “any past instances.”

Cooper-Jones also sat in court while Travis Mc-Michael took the stand.

“I wanted to get the mindset of Travis,” she said. “What was he thinking on that day and that time when he chose to kill my son? He shot my son three times at short range.”

She said she has no remorse for Travis and can’t forgive him at this moment.

Cooper-Jones said she plans to attend every day of the upcoming federal hate crime trial against the three defendants. She said this entire process has taught her about the importance of getting out to vote and being a part of the decisions at the state and local level.

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