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Wanda Cooper-Jones, mother of Ahmaud Arbery, says guilty verdicts were "like a dream come true"

Mother of Ahmaud Arbery on guilty verdicts
Wanda Cooper-Jones, mother of Ahmaud Arbery, on his life and legacy 05:02

For Ahmaud Arbery's mother, Wednesday's verdict in Brunswick, Georgia, came after a 21-month search for justice involving prayer and hard work.

Three men were convicted of killing her son after chasing him down in Brunswick. They each face the possibility of a life sentence in prison. Wanda Cooper-Jones got emotional in the courtroom after the verdict was read – a day she once thought would never come.

At Arbery's funeral, she promised him she would get justice no matter how hard the journey would be, and she fulfilled that promise 17 months later. Cooper-Jones said the guilty verdicts were a "big victory" for her and Arbery's family, and she said it wouldn't have been possible without the footage of her son's death.

"It was like a dream come true ... I don't think without that video we would have had any arrests, nevertheless a trial," she told "CBS Mornings."

Travis McMichael, the man who shot Arbery, was found guilty on all nine counts, including malice murder. His father, Gregory McMichael, and another man, William "Roddie" Bryan, were convicted of felony murder and other charges.

They all face a life sentence with a possibility of parole after 30 years.

Cooper-Jones said it was important to keep her son's name alive because 74 days had passed without an arrest, she said.

"I mean, we went like two weeks without anybody knowing about actually what happened to Ahmaud on that Sunday afternoon," she said. "So from that point on, I knew that we had to keep it in the light of things to get some justice for Ahmaud."

As she watched the trial play out, Cooper-Jones said she often thought the justice system was unfair. But she reminded herself it was something she had to do in order to get justice for her son.

She hopes that the guilty verdicts will give other families a sense of encouragement that justice will prevail with perseverance.

Cooper-Jones sat through eight days of intense testimony, some of which was disparaging to Arbery's memory. She left the courtroom during one particular moment when a defense attorney told the jury her son had "long, dirty toenails."

"I felt like that was very disrespectful, not only to Ahmaud, but to his family that was sitting there watching," she said.

"Then I said to myself that she said that only because she was trying to demean Ahmaud. But at the same time, Ahmaud was killed while he was jogging regardless of how long his toenails were, and he didn't deserve that at all."

She had a message to the three men responsible for her son's death: "We finally got justice for Ahmaud. I'm so sorry that your bad decisions made all of my family suffer to this extreme, but it was your decisions that got us here."

Cooper-Jones said she hopes people will think of change when they hear her son's name.

"Because Ahmaud has impacted changes in Georgia already with the citizen's arrest law," she said, noting that his death was the impetus behind a hate crime law enacted in the state in 2020.

"So I'm hoping that when they hear the name Ahmaud Arbery it will prompt them to think about change."

"48 Hours" goes inside a mother's relentless pursuit of the truth of what happened to her son in "A Promise to Ahmaud" airing Saturday at 10/9c on CBS and Paramount+.

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