Georgia voters have spoken, and they have chosen to oust District Attorney Jackie Johnson, who initially handled the case involving the killing of Ahmaud Arbery, a 25-year-old black man who was chased by three men, one of whom shot him to death earlier this year. Johnson, whose office has a history of questionable practices, lost by about 5,000 votes to challenger assistant district attorney Keith Higgins according to The Brunswick News.
Johnson came under fire when it was discovered that her office interfered in the investigation into Arbery’s killing. After officers arrived on the scene of the homicide, they spoke with Gregory McMichael, his son, Travis McMichael, and neighbor William “Roddie” Bryan, the men who chased Arbery before Travis shot him. The police were ready to arrest the three men, but Johnson came to their defense.
As I wrote previously, a Glynn County commissioner told reporters that “After multiple calls back and forth, the investigator was told by her (Johnson’s) assistant, a man named Rocky Bridges, that no arrests were to be made.”
Commissioner Allen Booker told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that Johnson’s office was trying to protect the McMichaels. “The police at the scene went to her, saying they were ready to arrest both of them. These were the police at the scene who had done the investigation,” he said. “She shut them down to protect her friend McMichael.”
The Washington Post noted that it is rare for voters to remove a district attorney from their position. But the heightened racial tensions and her poor handling of the case certainly played an important role in the election.
On top of protecting the three men from arrest, Johnson also failed to report a conflict of interest in the case until three days after the incident, when she admitted that she knew Gregory McMichael, who previously worked as an investigator in the DA’s office. By the time she informed Georgia Attorney General Chris Carr of the conflict, she had already reached out to district attorney George Barnhill to take over the case even though state law requires that a replacement is chosen by the attorney general.
Barnhill, who later had to recuse himself due to a conflict of interest, also seemed interested in protecting the McMichaels. He wrote a memo seemingly exonerating the men, claiming that they were attempting to perform a citizen’s arrest — despite the fact that none of the men indicated this in their statements to law enforcement.
In the rest of the document, he places the blame on Arbery himself and intimates that he had a mental illness that prompted his actions on that day. He recused himself when Arbery’s parents pointed out that Barnhill’s son also worked with McMichael in the DA’s office.
All three men were later arrested on charges of murder, and aggravated assault after the Georgia Bureau of Investigations (GBI) took over the case. They pleaded “not guilty” to the crimes. Recently, a glimpse into the defense their attorneys will use was given during a TV segment.
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported that Flynn Broady, who defeated Cobb County District Attorney Joyette Holmes in the election, will become the fifth prosecutor to handle the case.
“Based on what we have seen so far, it looks like we have a good case,” the district attorney said. “It is time that we send a message to folks that we can get along. It is important that we understand that we cannot assume the worst in each other and continue to live our lives like that.”
Ahmaud Arbery’s killing was the first of the incidents that have sparked nationwide civil unrest and increased racial tensions. While he was not killed by a police officer, the local government’s handling of the matter elicited criticism. Many believe that these officials attempted to sweep the case under the rug while protecting the men involved in the incident.
Arbery’s death prompted a new wave of race-baiting from the left and false narratives from the right. While information later emerged showing that Travis McMichael and Bryan held racist views, the left and corporate press attempted to paint the entire state as hopelessly racist. On the right, many did the usual routine, digging up Arbery’s prior criminal record and making up brazen lies about the incident itself.
But in the end, most on both sides see this event for what it is: a tragedy. It appears that the county’s supposedly-racist voters agreed, which is why Johnson no longer has a job. Of course, this won’t prevent the left from pushing the racism narrative, but to sensible people, it’s clear that most Georgians do not share the same beliefs as those involved in the shooting.
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