One of the multiple prosecutors who recused themselves from Ahmaud Arbery’s murder case over shady links to the accused killers could soon find herself out of a job after a candidate qualified to challenge her re-election bid in south Georgia.
Brunswick Judicial Circuit District Attorney Jackie Johnson’s office worked with one in the trio of jailed white men charged with playing separate murderous roles in the killing of Arbery, a Black man who was jogging when he was allegedly racially profiled, chased down by armed men, trapped in the middle of a road and shot dead in February in the coastal town of Brunswick. Gregory McMichael worked for more than 20 years with Johnson’s office as an investigator, prompting her to recuse herself over what she described at the time as a conflict of interest.
But there should be no conflict of interest when it comes to a case of blatant murder, Georgia NAACP President James Woodall argued in a tweet months ago while slamming Johnson in a tweet.
“Any rational person knows that Ahmad Arbery was murdered in broad daylight,” Woodall tweeted in calling for Johnson to “not only resign but be disbarred as well.” Woodall said that given the facts about the case, delaying charges for McMichael, his son, Travis, and their friend William “Roddie” Bryan, was a “grave malpractice and criminal complicity.”
Johnson’s voluntary recusal led to the case being assigned to Ware County District Attorney George Barnhill, who eventually also had to recuse himself after Arbery’s mom, Wanda Cooper, found out that Barnhill’s son works in the Brunswick district attorney’s office, which had previously employed Gregory McMichael.
The series of recusals drew attention to an apparent incestuous relationship between multiple prosecutors’ offices and the accused killers of Arbery and also suggested achieving justice in the case could ultimately be elusive.
Enter Keith Higgins, who last week qualified as an independent candidate to challenge Johnson, a Republican, in a race for district attorney that does not include a Democrat. Prior to Higgins’ candidacy, Johnson was running unopposed and was the presumptive winner in the upcoming election in November.
While it’s unclear how Higgins feels about the law enforcement malfeasance surrounding Arbery’s case, it is clear that Johnson — who was appointed more than a decade ago to be the district attorney of the Brunswick Judicial Circuit — and her mishandling of an obvious case of murder that has been described as a modern-day lynching should no longer be serving in that role.
When Johnson was first appointed during the summer of 2010, she remarked how she was “looking forward to serving the people of the Brunswick Judicial Circuit as district attorney.” Ten years later, her actions surrounding Arbery’s case show she has failed to make good on that promise.
Arbery’s case is now being presided over by Joyette Holmes, a Black woman who is also the district attorney in Cobb County, a former judge and a Republican. She was appointed by Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp, prompting suspicion that she may have been hand-picked to prosecute the case because of her political ties and her apparent loyalty to the governor, 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.
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