State Watch

Georgia district attorney ousted in district that first handled Ahmaud Arbery case

Jackie Johnson, the Georgia district attorney who was criticized for her handling of the killing of 25-year-old Ahmaud Arbery, has lost her reelection bid to challenger Keith Higgins.

Johnson lost the election to Higgins, an assistant district attorney of 23 years, by about 5,000 votes, according to The Brunswick News. Johnson had been criticized for her conduct surrounding Arbery’s case in part for using her influence to undermine a police investigation. Johnson has insisted that she acted appropriately.

According to The Washington Post, district attorneys are rarely voted out of their positions, but the rise in protests against the killing of unarmed Black people placed Johnson at a disadvantage from the beginning of her campaign.

Higgins did not make Arbery’s case a part of his campaign, Brunswick News reported, but he did acknowledge how the case benefited his campaign against Johnson.

“I want to thank all the volunteers who gave their time and efforts to the campaign and the leaders across our communities who expressed their support for my candidacy,” Higgins said in a statement on his campaign’s Facebook page. “I look forward to working with the community and building back the faith in our legal system.”

Arbery, who is Black, was killed in Brunswick on Feb. 23 by former police officer Gregory McMichael, who chased Arbery in his truck with his son Travis McMichael claiming they thought he was responsible for several break-ins in their area. 

Johnson did not report a conflict of interest in the case for three days after the shooting when she revealed that she had known Gregory McMichael because he worked as an investigator in the DA’s office until his 2019 retirement.

As the Post reports, by the time Johnson alerted Georgia Attorney General Chris Carr of the conflict, she had already contacted District Attorney George Barnhill of Waycross, Ga., to take over the case. State law indicates that a replacement is chosen by the attorney general. 

In the three days Barnhill was unofficially on the case, he allegedly met with police and decided that McMichael had not committed any crime, according to the Post, which cites the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Barnhill also recused himself due to the fact his son had worked with McMichael in the district attorney’s office.

Both Gregory and Travis McMichael were arrested in May on charges of murder and aggravated assault after the Georgia Bureau of Investigations took over the case.

Tags Black Lives Matter Brunswick, Georgia District attorneys Georgia Killing of Ahmaud Arbery

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