Laura Hogue is the defense attorney for Greg McMichael, who stirred controversy in her closing arguments during the trial of the three men accused in the slaying of Ahmaud Arbery. Hogue said at the trial Arbery had “long, dirty toenails” and was “not an innocent victim.”
Hogue served as a prosecutor in Georgia for three years in the ’90s before starting a criminal defense firm with her husband, Franklin Hogue, according to the bio on her firm’s website. She is also a teacher of criminal defense practices, her bio says.
Greg McMichael, his son, Travis McMichael, and William “Roddie” Bryan faced trial in the death of 25-year-old Arbery, a Black jogger who was killed after the three White men confronted him on February 23, 2020, in the Satilla Shores neighborhood in Glynn County, Georgia. The men are faced nine counts in the slaying, including felony murder. On Friday, January 7, 2022, Judge Timothy Walmsley sentenced the McMichaels to life in prison without the possibility of parole. Bryan was sentenced to life in prison with the possibility of parole.
The jury found Travis McMichael, Greg McMichael and Bryan guilty of felony murder after lengthy deliberations concluding Wednesday, November 24, 2021, according to CNN.
Judge Timothy Walmsley ordered the men be held in custody, and CNN reported he would set a sentencing date “in the coming weeks.”
Travis McMichael was found guilty of malice murder, four counts of felony murder, two counts of aggravated assault, false imprisonment and criminal attempt to commit a felony, CNN reported. Bryan was acquitted on the malice murder charge but found guilty of felony murder. Gregory McMichael was also found guilty of felony murder. Bryan and Greg McMichael face a maximum sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole. Travis McMichael faces a minimum sentence of life in prison, according to CNN.
The three men are also facing federal charges. The federal trial is scheduled to begin in February, CNN reported.
In Hogue’s defense of her client, she described him as “a recurring nighttime intruder” in the closing arguments. The Associated Press reported that the defense attorneys have built a case saying the three men were “lawfully trying to stop burglaries in their neighborhood” and that they acted in self-defense when they shot Arbery with a 12-gauge shotgun as he ran away from them.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Hogue Said Arbery’s Decision to Run From Men Chasing Him in a Truck Was ‘Inexplicable’ & ‘Illogical’
Hogue said in her closing arguments that Arbery was in the neighborhood with the intent to commit burglaries, and that her client confronted him in self defense.
“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,” she said.
She claimed Arbery’s decisions, in part, led to his death, claiming he reached for a gun or made the impression he was reaching for a gun.
“There were two sets of decision-makers on February 23. It is not just the McMichael’s decisions that led to this tragedy,” she said. “No one but Ahmaud Arbery made the decision to either reach for, or certainly give the very real impression, that he was reaching for a handgun… and no one but Ahmaud Arbery made the decision not to stop when Travis’ truck rolled up beside him.”
She had said earlier in the trial Arbery had “a bright future.”
“Sadly, no verdict can change the grief of that future not realized. The hope that he could have turned himself around because all we can guess about the young man is that his teenage years would be full of promise but his early twenties just led him in the wrong direction,” Hogue said.
Hogue further said Arbery was “not an innocent victim.”
“Greg McMichael’s driveway decision wasn’t the only decision that set this tragedy in motion. Ahmaud Arbery was not an innocent victim plundering through Larry English’s house,” she said.
“Can anyone reasonably believe that Ahmaud Arbery was just doing a looky-loo on those nights, in what has been described and shown to you as a home drenched in absolute darkness?” Hogue added.
Hogue described Arbery’s decision to run from the men who were chasing him with a truck as “inexplicable” and “illogical.”
“He died because for whatever inexplicable, illogical reason, instead of staying where he was, whatever overwhelming reason he had to avoid being captured that day and arrested by the police, he chose to fight,” she said.
2. Hogue Left Her Job as Assistant District Attorney to Form a Criminal Defense Law Firm With her Husband
Hogue previously served as an assistant district attorney, appointed in 1994 to prosecute cases in the Macon Judicial Circuit, which includes Bibb, Peach, and Crawford counties in Georgia, according to her bio on the website for her current law firm, Hogue Hogue Fitzgerald & Griffin.
“She prosecuted major felony offenses, including violent crimes, sex offenses, and crimes against children. Additionally, Laura co-directed the appellate division of the office, handling numerous appeals before the Georgia Court of Appeals and the Georgia Supreme Court,” the bio says.
She left in 1997 to form the law firm with her husband, Franklin J. Hogue, the bio says.
“The firm handles exclusively criminal defense matters, trying cases in both state and federal courts, and handling appeals and post-conviction matters in the Georgia Court of Appeals, the Georgia Supreme Court, the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals, and the United States Supreme Court,” her bio says. “Laura has tried cases throughout the state of Georgia, successfully prevailing in matters as diverse as vehicular homicide, child cruelty, child molestation, aggravated assault on a peace officer, and tax fraud. Laura has successfully argued appeals before the appellate courts that have resulted in victories in cases such as murder, voluntary manslaughter, vehicular homicide, and aggravated child molestation.”
3. Hogue Is an Adjunct Professor at Mercer University’s School of Law, Her Alma Mater
Hogue has won several awards and holds multiple roles, her bio says. Every spring, she teaches an Advanced Criminal Trial Practice Course at Walter F. George School of Law along with her husband, the bio says. She is also a faculty member at the William “Bill” Daniels Criminal Defense College in Athens, Georgia, and the National Criminal Defense College.
She also regularly speaks about criminal law, trial practice and procedures at engagements for the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, the Georgia Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, Mercer Law School, Georgia Capital Defenders, the Macon Bar Association, and the Institute of Continuing Legal Education, the bio says.
She also serves as the chairperson of the Attorney Grievance Committee for the Middle District of Georgia, a role she was appointed to by the United States District Court Judges. She has also received the Hugh Q. Wallace award for distinguished service in the field of criminal defense, and was the recipient of the National Women in Law award when she attended college at the Walter F. George School of Law at Mercer University, Macon, Georgia.
4. Arbery’s Mother Shook Her Head as Hogue Made Her Closing Remarks
Wanda Cooper-Jones, Arbery’s mom, was shaking her head as Hogue made comments about her son, Newsweek reported.
Lead prosecutor Linda Dunikoski countered the defense attorney’s arguments, saying Arbery was not involved in criminal activity and had no involvement in thefts that had occurred in the neighborhood. She said he did not have a weapon or even a cellphone and did not make any threats toward the men.
“All three of these defendants made assumptions, made assumptions about what was going on that day. And they made their decision to attack Ahmaud Arbery in their driveways because he was a Black man running down the street,” Dunikoski said. “He ran away from them for five minutes. No weapon. No threats. No way to call for help. Didn’t even have a cell phone on him. Ran away from them for five minutes.”
5. Twitter Users Were Quick to Call Out Hogue for Her Description of ‘Long, Dirty Toenails’ in the Closing Remarks
Twitter users shared photos of Hogue and videos of her closing statements, calling her “a bad human.”
“Atty Laura Hogue thinks that Ahmaud’s ‘long dirty toe nails’ are one of the reasons he was murdered,” one person wrote. “Her closing arguments said he didn’t belong in the area (read because he was black) and it’s his own fault he died. She is a bad human.”
“To hear Attorney Laura Hogue bring up Ahmaud Arbery’s ‘long dirty toe nails’ in closing arguements sickens me,” another person tweeted. “I’m wholeheartedly disgusted. My heart goes out to Ahmaud Arbery’s family in the courtroom.”
“White women like Laura Hogue have been used to criminalize & justify the murder of Black men like Ahmaud Arbery for HUNDREDS of years in this country,” activist Shaun King wrote “It’s not new. Not at all. It goes back to plantations. Her words today are just the latest manifestation of an old evil.”
“My heart sank today when defense attorney Laura Hogue thought it was appropriate to comment on #AhmaudArbery’s ‘long dirty toenails,'” educator Angel Jones tweeted. “The constant disrespect of Black bodies and disregard for our humanity is deplorable. She should be ashamed of herself.”