UPDATED: 6:17 p.m. ET, Feb. 9, 2021 —
Georgia Attorney General Chris Carr denied Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis’ request for recusal in the Rayshard Brooks murder case on Tuesday, citing that his office could not find a conflict of interest.
In a letter addressed to Willis, Carr wrote that “the responsibility for those cases remains with you and your office,” according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
“The District Attorney is dedicated to ensuring justice is done in these and all matters, and will handle these cases accordingly,” Willis said in a statement.
The resolution comes nearly two weeks after Willis submitted a letter to Carr, alleging that her predecessor’s handling of the case warranted “sufficient question.”
After Willis’ request, Carr had to decide whether he would assign the case to another prosecutor, take up the case in his office, or request for it to be taken up by the prosecuting attorneys council.
In a decision that will undoubtedly shock and anger her constituents, Fani Willis, the acting District Attorney in Fulton County, requested another prosecutor to oversee the Rayshard Brooks case.
In a Wednesday letter addressed to Georgia State Attorney General Chris Carr, Willis said the actions of her predecessor Paul Howard warranted “sufficient question,” as reason for her decision, according to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
“My predecessor obtained arrest warrants against the following defendants for incidents that occurred during the campaign,” the letter states. “I believe his conduct, including using video evidence in campaign television advertisements, may have violated Georgia Bar Rule 3.8(g). In addition, as you are aware, my predecessor’s conduct also prompted a referral to the GBI for criminal investigation by you his issuance of grand jury subpoenas at a time when no Fulton County Grand Jury was empaneled.”
Willis’ decision to defer the case to another prosecutor places Rolfe’s trial in limbo, at a time when the current political and social justice environment is tense with urgent calls for reform and relief over the repeated shootings of Black community members.
Carr will now have the option to either assign the case to another prosecutor, take up the case in his office, or assign to the prosecuting attorneys council.
Willis will also defer another high-profile case, involving Taniyah Pilgrim, a Spelman College Student, and her boyfriend Messiah Young, a Morehouse student, who were wrongfully and brutally apprehended during a Black Lives Matter protest over the summer.
“We’re shocked,” said attorney Chiris Stewart who represents Brooks’ family and Pilgrim. “The families would have appreciated a meeting with the DA or at least a phone call.”
Brooks was tragically gunned down by Atlanta officer Garrett Rolfe on June, 12, 2020 at the height of Black Lives Matter demonstrations while he slept in a Wendy’s drive-through lane. Rolfe was fired from the force and was charged with felony murder, five counts of aggravated assault, four counts of violation of oath of office and one count of criminal damage to property. He was released weeks after his arrest on $500,000 and remains free until a pending trial.
Willis said she was led to make the move after a prior motion called on Howard to recuse himself and believes it’s the best decision to make after Brooks’ family expressed distrust over the Fulton County DA’s office handling the case.
“Sometimes as a lawyer you’ll be in a trial and you get a gut punch when you know the other side has got you,” Willis told the AJC on Thursday. “And this was one of those times.”