ABlack woman district attorney was expected to be formally named as the lead prosecutor handling the Ahmaud Arbery murder case in which two white men have been accused in the killing of an unarmed Black man while he was jogging in Georgia.
Joyette Holmes, the district attorney in Cobb County and a former judge, will reportedly be formally appointed on Monday to take over prosecuting the case surrounding the killing in the town of Brunswick. She is also a Republican who was selected for her current position by Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp.
A reporter for local news outlet WSB-TV tweeted that the announcement was expected in the afternoon.
If confirmed, the addition of Holmes would be the latest change in the ever-evolving case that stems from father and son Gregory and Travis McMichael racially profiling Arbery in February, when they claimed he fit the description of a burglar. They grabbed their guns, hopped into a truck and chased Arbery, trapping him on the road in between their truck and the one being driven behind, where another man — William “Roddie” Bryan — was filming the incident that ended in Arbery being she to death on a road in broad daylight.
According to her official bio, Holmes “was sworn in as District Attorney of the Cobb Judicial Circuit on July 1, 2019. She has been both a prosecutor and a defense attorney in Cobb. Most recently, she served for four years as Chief Magistrate of Cobb County.” She is the county’s first African American district attorney and its first woman district attorney. Holmes’ predecessor left to take over the Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI), prompting Kemp to appoint her to fill the role. Prior to becoming the Cobb County district attorney, Holmes was the chief magistrate judge of the Cobb County Magistrate Court from 2015-2019.
Holmes will come into her new role as a result of suspected corruption in Brunswick’s Gwynn County, which is nearly 500 miles southeast of Cobb County. But there was suspicion that she may have been hand-picked to prosecute the case because she is a Republican and apparent ally of Kemp, who has emerged as a contemptuous figure in the Black community from both rigging his election in 2018 as well as reacting recklessly to the coronavirus crisis in Georgia.
As if the shooting was not controversial enough, the need to appoint a district attorney from a separate jurisdiction stemmed from Glynn County Prosecutor George Barnhill initially arguing that there were no grounds to arrest the McMichael’s nor Bryan. “It appears Travis McMichael, Greg McMichael and (William Bryan) were following, in ‘hot pursuit,’ a burglary suspect, with solid firsthand probable cause, in their neighborhood, and asking/telling him to stop,” Barnhill wrote. “It appears their intent was to stop and hold this criminal suspect until law enforcement arrived. Under Georgia law, this is perfectly legal.”
Barnhill eventually left the case along with another prosecutor, Jackie Johnson, before him. Gregory McMichael used to work in Johnson’s district attorney office in the Brunswick Judicial District so there was a conflict of interest. Then, Arbery’s mom, Wanda Cooper, urged Barnhill to recuse himself from the case after it was revealed that his son also works in Johnson’s office, where Greg used to work as an investigator since 1985.
The case was eventually passed on to Atlantic Judicial Circuit District Attorney Tom Durden, who called for the GBI to look into the case. The GBI, as previously mentioned, is led by Vic Reynolds who, again, is the former Cobb County district attorney. Kemp appointed both Reynolds and Holmes to their current positions.
Although Johnson and Barnhill are no longer a part of the case, activists and civil rights organizations are also calling on them to resign. Barnhill is especially being called to not practice law, considering his defense of the McMichaels in his letter were deemed extremely problematic considering his position as a prosecutor. Barnhill also criminalized Arbery from the start by bringing up his past record as a reason he was killed. He argued, “Arbery’s mental health records & prior convictions help explain his apparent aggressive nature and his possible thought pattern to attack an armed man.”
Georgia NAACP President James Woodall slammed the prosecutors in a tweet, saying:
“Any rational person knows that Ahmad Arbery was murdered in broad daylight. District Attorneys Jackie Johnson [Brunswick] AND George Barnhill [Waycross] should not only resign but be disbarred as well. This is grave malpractice and criminal complicity.”
The combination of Kemp-appointed officials at the center of Ahmaud Arbery’s case prompted at least one person on social media to suspect that it could all add up to an eventual acquittal of murder for the McMichaels.
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