BRUNSWICK, Ga. - Ahmaud Arbery's mother, Wanda Cooper-Jones, and father, Marcus Arbery, joined hands outside the federal courthouse in Brunswick, Georgia, minutes after hearing the three men convicted of killing their son were found guilty of hate crimes.
The day before the two-year anniversary of their son's death brought the family a small legal victory. Cooper-Jones, however, said her son is irreplaceable.
"We as a family will never get victory because Ahmaud is gone forever," she said.
Tuesday morning, the jury told Judge Lisa Godbey Wood that they found father and son Greg and Travis McMichael and neighbor William "Roddie" Bryan guilty of violating Arbery's civil rights and targeting the 25-year-old man because he was Black. All three men were previously convicted of murder in a Georgia state court and sentenced to life in prison for the fatal shooting.
In addition to the federal hate crimes, the jury also found the McMichaels and Bryan guilty of attempted kidnapping, while father and son were also found guilty of the use of a firearm in the commission of a crime.
While Cooper-Jones was pleased to hear the guilty verdicts, she expressed anger that the family was almost denied a trial. She criticized the federal prosecutors who broached a plea deal with the three accused men, despite her desire to go forward with a trial.
"They ignored my cry," she said.
The federal judge didn't step in to reject the plea bargains until multiple family members expressed their displeasure with proposed plea bargains, she said.
"I told the DOJ, yes, they were prosecutors, but they didn't have a son lying in a cold grave," Cooper-Jones said.
But Cooper-Jones said she was satisfied with the jury's verdict and professed her confidence in the criminal and federal cases against the three men charged in her son's death.
"I knew Ahmaud's hands were in this from the very beginning," she said.
Father Marcus Arbery explained how faith and family helped him emotionally navigate the criminal and federal trials. He thanked Cooper-Jones for her resolve as well as the children and grandchildren they share.
"I give all glory to Wanda," he said.
Marcus Arbery remembered his son's affection and remarked on the resilience his family showed through the two years since his son's death.
"He loved this family, he called us every day," Marcus Arbery said. "If he had one word to tell you, it was, 'I love you, pop. I love you, mama.'"
The state of Georgia declared Feb. 23 Ahmaud Arbery Day to mark gravity of his death and the subsequent criminal and federal cases. Attorneys for the family remarked the trial is a significant example of Black victims in deadly shootings getting criminal justice. Law enforcement in the 2020 killing of Breonna Taylor have still not been charged.
In DeKalb County, officers claim they fatally shot Matthew Zadok Williams out of self-defense, while the dead man's family indicated he was having a mental health crisis.
The family intends to move forward with a lawsuit filed against ex-Glynn County District Attorney Jackie Johnson, accusing her of covering up Ahmaud Arbery's murder.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.