The local authorities in Brunswick, Georgia, spent months going out of their way not to do as little as arresting and charging Gregory and Travis McMichael and William “Roddie” Bryan for the lynching of Ahmaud Arbery. So on its face, Arbery’s case looked like it would amount to yet another story of injustice where whiteness wins and Blackness is criminalized and blamed for its own death.
But that’s not the way things turned out despite defense attorneys’ numerous attempts at pushing things to turn out exactly that way. Instead, the trio of Kan-ish killers was convicted of multiple counts of murder and sentenced to life in state prison. Then they were convicted again of federal hate crime charges on Tuesday.
But Arbery’s mother, Wanda Cooper-Jones, isn’t about to be one of those mourning family members that are still Cristian enough that they freely offer forgiveness to murderers and the legal officials who move to protect them—and that includes prosecutors.
As Raw Story reported, Cooper-Jones thanked the Department of Justice prosecutors for bringing federal charges on her son’s murderers, but she let them know she didn’t forget that, prior to the beginning of the trial, they tried to push through a back-door deal on behalf of the McMichaels that would’ve ensured they would serve any federal sentence imposed on them concurrently with their state sentences, which they would likely spend in federal prison as opposed to state prison.
Fortunately, U.S. District Court Judge Lisa Godbey Wood rejected the deal, but that doesn’t change the fact that the DOJ tried it, and according to Cooper-Jones, they tried it behind the family’s back.
“I’m very thankful that you brought these charges of hate crimes but back on Jan. 31, you guys accepted a plea deal with these three murderers who took my son’s life,” Cooper-Jones said outside the courtroom Tuesday. “Even after the family stood before the judge and asked the judge to not take this plea deal, the lead prosecutor Tara Lyons asked the judge to ignore the family’s cry. That’s not justice for Ahmaud. What we got today we wouldn’t have gotten if it was for the fight the family put up on Jan. 31.”
“I, as a mom, will never heal,” She added. “I told the justice department attorneys that they were prosecutors but one thing they didn’t have was a son lying in a cold grave.”
Cooper-Jones reminds us that no matter how satisfied we are that justice has been served regarding a single case, we can’t take our collective foot off the neck of the system that far too often allows similar cases to go virtually unpunished.
Ahmaud Arbery’s case represents a single win in the interest of racial justice, but it doesn’t come anywhere near ending our fight.