Ahmaud Arbery Killing Updates: Arbery's Mom Says Her Son is 'Bigger Than' the Toenail Comment

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Sentencing for Ahmaud Arbery Killers
The three men convicted of murdering Ahmaud Arbery face sentencing Friday. Above, Greg McMichael sits with his attorney before the start of closing arguments to the jury during the trial of Ahmaud Arbery's alleged killers at Glynn County Superior Court on November 22, 2021 in Brunswick, Georgia. Stephen B. Morton-Pool/Getty Images

Watch the moment men convicted are sentenced to life

The three men convicted of murdering Ahmaud Arbery were all sentenced to life in prison on Friday.

Greg and Travis McMichael were each sentenced to life plus 20 years, without the possibility of parole.

William Bryan was sentenced to life with the possibility of parole.

"I've read somewhere, and I don't remember where it was, that at a minimum, Ahmaud Arbery's death should force us to consider expanding our definition of what a neighbor may be and how we treat them," Judge Timothy Walmsley said before the sentencing.

"I argue that maybe a neighbor is more than the people who just own property around your house. I believe that assuming the worst in others, we show our worst character."

He said we should instead assume the best.

Arbery's mother addresses toenail comment after sentencing

Ahmaud Arbery's mother Wanda Cooper-Jones addressed the "long, dirty toenails" comment made by one of the defense attorneys during the trial.

"She failed to mention that Ahmaud was lying there in the middle of the road with a big hole in his chest," she said. "She left that part out."

Defense attorney Laura Hogue told the jurors Arbery should not be portrayed as a victim after he came into the neighborhood "in his khaki shorts with no socks to cover his long, dirty toenails."

Cooper-Jones made a reference to that comment during her witness statement in court Friday. She said she wanted to reiterate that her son "bigger than that."

Arbery's mother said she 'never doubted' this day would come

Ahmaud Arbery's mother Wanda Cooper-Jones thanked the prosecution and the supporters for standing with her during the "very long, hard fight."

"When I entered the courtroom on October 18, I sat in the courtroom five weeks straight," Cooper-Jones said. "But I knew that we would come out with a victory."

"I never doubted it. I knew this day would come," she added.

She thanked God for giving her a "fair judge" who delivered a "very good verdict" and a "very good sentence."

Cooper-Jones said that when Arbery was killed, the city "thought I would have to fight this fight alone."

"They chose to ignore me. They didn't know I had you guys to stand with me," she said. "I want to say thank you, thank you for standing with me."

Attorney Ben Crump says Arbery 'made history'

Civil rights attorney Ben Crump, who represents Arbery's family, thanked the prosecution team for "showing America what equal justice looks like."

He added, however, that this "is not justice, it's accountability."

"Think about all the black people who have been lynched who never got their day in court," Crump said. "Nobody ever heard their evidence. They never got accountability. Nobody went to prison for killing them."

He then turned to Arbery's parents.

"Today your son is making history because people are being held accountable for lynching a black man in America."

DA speaks outside court house

The Arbery family joins the members from district attorney's office outside the court house.

Pastor Jamal Bryant the "only virus that killed more Americans than COVID is injustice." He added that today "we have the vaccine."

Cobb County District Attorney Flynn D. Broady Jr. said today proves "there is liberty and justice for all here."

He thanked the prosecution team, the judge and the jurors who made the decision that "hate and intolerance needs to go away."

New Black Panther Party speaks outside court house

New Black Panther Panther is speaking outside the court house.

Malik Shabazz, an attorney for the party, said the group is "very happy" with the sentencing handed down by the judge today.

He repeated some of the more powerful quotes from Judge Walmsley and said the party is happy to know Travis and Greg McMichael "will never see the light of day again."

Shabazz called this "callous and cruel" case a "lynching."

According to reporter inside the court house, the Arbery family is waiting to exit the building to speak to the press.

Supporters outside court house erupt in cheers following sentencing

People are reacting to the life sentences delivered to the three men who chased and killed Ahmaud Arbery.

Supporters outside the court house erupted in cheers and applause after the sentencing was delivered.

They chanted "Justice for Ahmaud" and "Black Lives Matter."

Judge warns against taking the law into your own hands

Judge Walmsley warned against taking the law into one's own hands.

He said this was "the most violent crime" in the neighborhood, calling the killing "callous" and an exercise in accountability.

"[Arbery] was killed because the individuals here in this courtroom took the law into their own hands," he said. "We are all accountable for our own actions. The defendants are being held accountable today."

He added taking the law into your own hands is a "dangerous endeavor."

Walmsley added that Arbery's death should "force us to consider expanding our definition of what a neighbor may be and how we treat them." He said we should always assume the best in others.

States asked for defendants to not make money from the trial

The state requests that the defendant will not be allowed to make money off of their actions, the trial or their convictions.

This includes profits from movie or book deals.

If any money is made, the state asks that it go into a fund for the Arbery family.

The judge will consider the request and asked the state to submit something to the court in writing.

William Bryan sentenced to life with possibility of parole

Judge Walmsley delivered the sentence for William Bryan separately from the McMichaels.

Walmsley said Bryan had "grave concerns about what had occurred."

Bryan is sentenced to life with the possibility of parole. He will have the possibility of parole after 30 years.

Travis and Greg McMichael sentenced to life without parole

Judge Walmsley sentences both Greg and Travis McMichael to life plus 20 years in prison without parole for felony murder.

Judge reads quote to provide 'context' in the case

Judge Walmsley said "the record speaks for itself."

He said Greg McMichael tried to establish a narrative and repeated quotes he said during the trial, including "stop or I'll blow your f***ing head off," he "trapped him [Arbery] like a rat" and "if I could have gotten a shot, I would have."

He said Travis McMichael "claimed he was in shock" while Arbery laid in the street and said that day was the worst day of his life.

Travis grabbed a shotgun and "just goes" with his father after Arbery because he assumes its the right thing to do.

William Bryan claimed he didn't know what was going on but also went along with the chase. He said ''if the guy would have stopped, this would have never happened'."

The judge said these quotes give context to the video of the incident. As Wanda Cooper-Jones said earlier today, "when they could not scare or intimidate" Arbery, "they killed him."

Judge to deliver sentencing soon

Judge Timothy Walmsley has returned to the bench to deliver remarks before he hands Bryan and the McMichaels their sentencing.

He said "candidly" he spent a lot of time thinking about this.

Walmsley said the court will be careful to only consider the evidence presented, and not outside influence.

To begin his remarks, Walmsley said this case is "a tragedy on many levels" as a young man was "gunned down" in this community.

He said Ahmaud Arbery "left his home to go on a run and he ended up running for his life."

He then sat silent for one minute to represent "a fraction of the time Arbery was running."

Prosecution says McMichaels felt they were 'above the law'

Prosecutor Linda Dunikoski said Greg and Travis McMichael operated with an attitude that they were "above the law."

Greg McMichael interfered with the investigation by releasing the video of the shooting to the media because he believed it would "exonerate him," Dunikoski said. She argued the McMichaels believed they did nothing wrong, showing a lack of remorse or empathy.

As someone who worked in law enforcement, she said Greg McMichael had an attitude of ''I'm special and I'm above the law and the law doesn't apply to me."

Dunikoski dismissed the claim that they were trying to help the neighborhood because Greg McMichael threatened to kill Arbery if he did not stop.

''The road to hell is paved with good intentions," she said, and while both Greg and Travis McMichael may have had good intentions, they were thoughtless and lacked the vision to see how it could go terribly wrong.

During the trial, Travis McMichael said that day was the worse day of his life.

"Well how did that work out for Ahmaud Arbery?" Dunikoski asked. "Not once is he able to put himself into the position of Mr. Arbery on the stand."

She said the four minutes of the incident are a reflection of McMichaels' attitude throughout their entire lives. That it was a culmination of vigilantism, a desire to play law enforcement and confront people with guns without an understanding of the consequences, Dunikoski said.

Gough seeks a different parole consideration for Bryan

Defense attorney Kevin Gough outlined factors he believes the court should consider when delivering the sentencing for William Bryan.

He said the jury found Bryan was unarmed, was not a party to the shooting and did not attempt to kill Arbery. Gough also said Bryan did not know the McMichaels had guns during the chase.

Gough said Bryan had "no idea what was going on or why until the tragic death of Mr. Arbery."

This, Gough argues, puts Bryan in a different position than the McMichaels.

On the issue of remorse, Gough said Bryan expressed remorse, whether it's part of the record or not.

"He has never questioned the tragedy of this death" and pointed out that if his car collided with Arbery, he might still be alive, Gough said.

He said Bryan was "remorseful and regretful to this loss of life" and wished he stayed on his front porch that day.

Gough also outlined Bryan's full cooperation with police after the incident.

On a scale of cooperation, Gough said "you'd have to put Mr. Bryan on a 12 out of 10."

Due to these factors, Gough suggests the court give Bryan a different parole consideration.

He said with the sentencing the state suggested, Bryan would be 80 years old before he was eligible for parole.

Gough wants to court to sentence Bryan to life in prison plus 15 years and consideration for early parole. He asked the court to consider "a rare and underused law" that would give a parole board the opportunity to discern when Bryan could be released.

William Bryan's attorney says his client deserves redemption

Kevin Gough, the attorney for Williams Bryan, is making his argument.

He notes Bryan, like the McMichaels, is a first-time offender and is not "depraved" or among "the worst of the worst" and should have the possibility of life with parole. Gough said Bryan deserves redemption.

The state is seeking a life sentence with the possibility of parole for Bryan. Gough said he did not receive the states notice of intent to seek that sentence. The notice appears to have been sent to the wrong address and due to that technicality, Gough argues the notice was not properly serves and is "defective."

Greg McMichael's attorney says he is a 'good man'

Laura Hogue said the jury found Greg McMichael's offense was an "unintentional act."

She said McMichael did not leave his home that day hoping to kill and did not seek to detain Arbery for "sport" or "evil," but because investigate the intrusion into the English house.

Hogue argued a life sentence without parole is reserved for the "worst of the worst."

She said in his 66 years, McMichael did not only 99 good deeds, but thousands.

"Greg McMichael is a good man," she said. "He's not a perfect person, but he's lived a good life dedicated to service and that does count for something."

Hogue outlined his service in the Navy and in law enforcement for over 30 years, noting there were never complaints of him being aggressive or "seeking to take matters into his own hands."

She asked the court to sentence her client to life with the possibility of parole, saying McMichael "remains a man of goodness."

Greg McMichael's attorney argues in his favor

Defense attorney Laura Hogue, the lawyer for Greg McMichael, is making her argument after the court returns from lunch.

In response to the state's request for a life sentence without parole and its intent to introduce evidence of other crimes, Hogue notes there is an "absence of any criminal history" for her client.

She also argues the state's evidence of a "pattern of vigilantism" is based on messages McMichael sent to law enforcement about suspicious people and activity in his neighborhood.

"That is in fact what a neighborhood watch program is all about," she said.

Hogue also countered the state's argument that McMichael "has shown no remorse or empathy."

"Our system leaves no opportunity for an accused to turn and be the person he's been for 66 years and offer condolences to another person for their sadness and loss," she said.

She added that McMichael "didn't and couldn't" offer genuine sadness and condolences for the loss of a loved one because "he's facing other crimes.''

Travis McMichael's attorney argues for possible parole

The defense began its presentation to court, beginning with Travis McMichael's attorney, Bob Rubin.

Rubin argued that the court should reserve the harshest possible sentences for "the worst of the worst."

"If life without parole is reserved for the worst of offenders, then it is not appropriate for someone like Travis McMichael," Rubin said.

He laid out a timeline of Travis McMichael's day leading up to the murder, explaining that his goal was not to commit crime but "merely investigate."

Rubin said it not a planned murder, it was a ''fight over a gun'' that resulted in death.

Rubin argued that nothing in Travis McMichael's life suggests he is or will be a danger to society, he is not mentally unstable, or a sociopath and he cooperated with police because he believed he was "doing the right thing."

Rubin asked the court to grant Travis McMichael a life sentence with the possibility of parole.

He's asking for "the possibility of redemption."

Prosecution seeks life without parole for McMichaels

Following the victim impact statements, Prosecutor Linda Dunikoski again addressed the court and spoke about a ''pattern of vigilantism," demonstrated by Travis and Greg McMichaels.

"Vigilantism always goes wrong," Dunikoski said. "And they should have known that."

Dunikoski provided several examples where the pair did not allow police to "do their job", explaining the "real problem" is that Greg was former law enforcement and Travis served in the Coast Guard.

"Here, we have some men who should have known better," she said.

She argued neither man has shown remorse nor empathy.

She cited those as the reasons why the prosecution is seeking life sentences without the possibility of parole for both Travis and Greg McMichaels.

Mother references Arbery's toe nails in court

Ahmaud Arbery's mother, Wanda Cooper-Jones, made reference to her son's toe nails during her emotional witness statement in court Friday.

"I wish he would've cut and cleaned his toenails before he went for his jog that day," she said.

She added that maybe her son would have doe that himself if he knew he was going to be murdered that day.

This was a reference to a comment defense attorney Laura Hogue made describing Arbery's "long, dirty toenails" during closing arguments.

READ MORE: Greg McMichael's Attorney Suggests Ahmaud Arbery's Actions Also to Blame For Death

Arbery's mother says her son was targeted

Ahmaud Arbery's mother, Wanda Cooper-Jones, was the final family member to speak to the court.

She said the guilty verdict didn't bring her son back, but it did bring closure to a "very difficult chapter" in her life.

"I made a promise to you the day I laid you to rest," she said. "I told you I love you and someday somehow I will get you justice. Son, I love you as much today as I did the day you were born. Raising you was the honor of my life, and I am very proud of you."

Cooper-Jones said the defendants chose to target her son because they did not want him in their community.

"Ahmaud never said a word to them, he never threatened them, he just wanted to be left alone," she said. "They were fully committed to their crimes. Let them be fully committed for the consequences."

She asked for the men to get the maximum sentence.

Arbery's sister says her brother was a positive light

Arbery's sister, Jasmine Arbery, spoke after her father.

She said her brother was positive and funny, always telling jokes to lighten the mood.

Arbery also described his dark skin, love for running and being outdoors, noting that these qualities made the defendants "assume he was a criminal."

"Ahmaud had a future that was taken from him," she said. "He was robbed of his life's pleasures, big and small. He would never be able to start a family or be part of my daughter's life."

She added that the loss is "devastating" for her and her family.

Arbery's father shares emotional witness statement

Ahmaud Arbery's father Marcus Arbery read an emotional victim statement before the count.

"I'll never get the chance to sit next to my son ever again," he said. "Not at a dinner table, not a holiday and not a wedding."

He added that he prays no one in the courtroom ever has to bury a child.

Arbery said his son felt the most free and alive while running and that the defendants "took that from him."

"When I close my eyes I see his execution in my mind over and over – I'll see it for the rest of my life," he said.

He said his wishes he could trade places with this son and that his heart "will always be broken."

"When I became a father, my life became bigger than me," Arbery said. "It became about my family, about protecting him, protecting my boy."

Arbery said he will keep fighting for his son and his memory and hopes the defendants are behind bars "for the rest of their life."

State seeks life sentences for Greg McMichaels, William Bryan

The state is seeking life in prison without the possibility of parole on count two, felony murder, for Greg McMichaels.

Counts three, four and five would be vacates and count six would merge into count two.

Dunikoski said counts seven through nine would be available for sentencing. For these counts, the state is seeking life with the possibility of parole plus 35 years that could be concurrent.

For William Bryan, the state is seeking life with the possibility of parole.

The state suggests life with the possibility of parole on count three with 15 years to serve consecutively on probation

Prosecution begins opening arguments

The prosecution begins its opening argument.

Prosecutor Linda Dunikoski outlines the sentencing the state is seeking for Travis McMichaels.

He is facing a life sentence on count one, malice murder. Counts two through five are felonies that would be vacated by operation of law. Count six would factually merge into count one. Count seven would remain standing. Count eight, false imprisonment, would merge into count one. Count nine, criminal intent, cuts the sentence in half.

At minimum, the state is asking for life with the possibility of parole of 15 years. The maximum sentence is life without parole, and for counts seven and nine, the state is asking for a 25-year sentence to run concurrently if the court rules on life without possibility of parole.

Judge denies all four motions filed by defense

Attorney Kevin Gough, the attorney for William Bryan, filed four motions this morning.

First, he argued that Bryan should not be sentenced to life without parole. Gough said it was unconstitutional to not include the possibility for parole because Bryan did not intend to kill Arbery.

"Because the evidence is clear he neither killed nor attempted to kill anyone in this matter and believe that it's cruel...unconstitutionally cruel to impose a mandatory life sentence," Gough said.

Prosecutor Linda Dunikoski said it is "a matter of responsibility not intent to kill."

Under the second motion, Gough argued Bryan should not face a mandatory life sentence.

The prosecution argued Bryan is seeking "special treatment", but Gough denied this claim and argued a life sentence is "cruel and unusual."

In his third motion, Gough asks the court to vacate the legal felony murder conviction due to double jeopardy because he was acquitted of felony murder in count two. Gough said an inmate from the Michigan prison system drafted a motion for him and cited law.

The prosecution denied double jeopardy rights were violated and will argue that Bryan is only sentenced for one of the felony counts.

In the final oral motion, Gough issued an 8th and 5th Amendment challenge. He argues that sentencing scheme is cruel and denies due process and is, therefore, "hopelessly ambiguous."

He said there were too many facts packed into count 7 and said it was impossible to determine what facts the jury found in this case. The attorney for Greg McMichael joined this motion.

The state said this is a legislative issue and added that the jury heard evidence from witnesses and saw body camera footage.

Judge Walmsley denied all four of these motions.

Hearing begins after slight delay

The sentencing hearing has begun after a slight delay.

Judge Timothy Walmsley has taken the bench.

Arbery's parents reject plea deal

The parents of Ahmaud Arbery and their lawyers made their way into the court house Friday morning.

They spoke to reporters outside about their hopes for the sentencing.

"The day we've prayed for has finally come," Arbery's mother Wanda Cooper-Jones said.

Her legal team rejected a plea deal earlier this week. Cooper-Jones said she was approached by the Department of Justice about he plea. The McMichael's and William Bryan offered to plead guilty to federal hate crimes in the murder of Arbery in hopes that their federal sentence would take the place of their state sentence, according to local CBS affiliate WGCL. This deal would have sentenced them to 30 years in federal prison.

"She rejected that offer because 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," Cooper-Jones' attorney Lee Merritt told CNN.

Cooper- Jones said she wants both state and federal sentences issued and served.

Ahmaud's father, Marcus Arbery Sr., thanks supporters and the attorneys for "helping get justice for Ahmaud."

How to watch the sentencing

The sentencing of Travis McMichael, his father Greg McMichael and William "Roddie" Bryan Jr. is set to begin soon.

The sentencing will be live streamed from the Glynn County Court House.

You can watch the sentencing on the Law & Crime Network website or on the First Coast News YouTube page.