Victim impact statements are meant to be impactful. It gives the families one last opportunity at justice.
The family of Ahmaud Arbery, the jogger who was fatally gunned down by three white men in February 2020, delivered powerful victim impact statements at Glynn County Courthouse in Brunswick, Georgia, on Friday morning.
Arbery, 25, reportedly spent five minutes running from Travis McMichael; his father, Gregory McMichael; and their neighbor William “Roddie” Bryan, who recorded the murder on his cellphone. The three men were arrested months later, after the video leaked and brought international attention to the case.
In November, the three men were found guilty of murder and other charges.
Arbery’s father, Marcus Arbery, began his victim impact statement by pointing out that Travis McMichael, who fatally shot Arbery, still gets to do what his son does not.
“The man who killed my son has sat in this courtroom every single day next to his father. I’ll never get that chance to sit next to my son ever again,” he told the court.
Jasmine Arbery, Arbery’s sister, described him as a young man full of life and energy who enjoyed running, an appreciation for being outdoors, and looked just like her. “These are the qualities that made these men assume that Ahmaud was a dangerous criminal and chase him with guns drawn,” she said. “The loss of Ahmaud has devastated me and my family.”
However, the most impactful came from the victim’s mother, Wanda Cooper-Jones. She wore a button with a photo of her son and began her statement speaking directly to Ahmaud Arbery, telling 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. I made a promise to you the day I laid you to rest. I told you I loved you and that someday, somehow I would get you justice.”
She described him as a “greedy baby,” “messy,” and “loving.” She spoke directly to the judge stating, “And your honor, we loved him back.”
“I wished he had cut and cleaned his toenails when he went out on the jog that day,” she told the court. “I guess he would have if he’d known he would be murdered that day.”
The remark was a direct call back to McMichael’s defense attorney Laura Hogue’s closing arguments back in November.
Hogue told the jurors, “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.”
After the remark, Arbery’s mother told CBS Mornings, “I didn’t expect them to go that low…I’ll just say this, regardless of how long and how dirty his toenails were, that’s still my son, and he didn’t deserve to die the way that he died.”
Ahmaud Arbery’s family pushed for the maximum sentence without the possibility of parole to be imposed on all three men involved in the shooting.