On Friday, people from all across the country took to the streets to run in honor of Ahmaud Arbery, the 25-year-old Georgia jogger who was fatally shot by a father-son duo while on a neighborhood run. May 8 would have been the former high school athlete’s 26th birthday, but instead the day kicked off a weekend of developments in the case of his untimely death. The most recent being that Cobb County District Attorney Joyette Holmes has been appointed to lead the prosecution of the two men arrested in connection to Arbery’s killing.
This past Saturday, hundreds gathered at Sidney Lanier Park in Brunswick, Georgia, to celebrate Arbery’s life just as demands grew for the handling of his case to be investigated. The family’s legal representation and the Georgia Bureau of Investigation are raising concerns about Brunswick District Attorney Jackie Johnson’s directive to police officers not to make any arrests in connection to the case. Johnson has denied the claim made by two Glynn County commissioners, who also said that after recusing herself Johnson was instrumental in getting the case handed off to Ware County District Attorney George E. Barnhill.
Both Johnson and Barnhill have ties to the McMichaels. A now-retired Greg McMichael was once employed as an investigator in Johnson’s office. It’s why she initially chose to recuse herself. Barnhill’s son happens to be an attorney in the same Brunswick District Attorney’s Office and worked with Gregory McMichael on a prior prosecution of Arbery. Barnhill held on to the case from February 24 to April 6, only recusing himself on insistence from Arbery’s family. And only after he provided a written statement saying that the killing was justifiable. That statement, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, was written after he identified the conflict of interest.
There has been ongoing condemnation from a number of legal organizations, including the National District Attorneys Association, which says Barnhill was out of line for the statement exonerating the McMichaels. On Sunday Georgia Attorney General Chris Carr formally requested that the U.S. Department of Justice investigate the handling of the case.
“We are committed to a complete and transparent review of how the Ahmaud Arbery case was handled from the outset,” Attorney General Chris Carr said in a news release obtained by ABC News. “The family, the community and the state of Georgia deserve answers, and we will work with others in law enforcement at the state and federal level to find those answers.” The Department of Justice announced on Monday that it is “assessing all of the evidence to determine whether federal hate crimes charges are appropriate” in the killing of Arbery.
On Sunday a new video was released that is said to have been taken moments leading up to Arbery’s death. In it, you see Arbery inside a home, but it appears that the would-be 26-year-old did not take anything from the construction site. The owner of the home Arbery entered corroborated that visual, saying nothing was taken from inside his home. The video, much like the leaked footage of Arbery’s death, runs counter to what the McMichaels said of the killing and what Barnhill said in his statement. The McMichaels never appear to witness a burglary in action, as they told the police. This also raises questions about why Barnhill deemed the killing a “justifiable homicide.”
Ahmaud Arbery’s father has said that his son’s death was a modern-day lynching. It is now up to Joyette Holmes, Cobb County district attorney, to determine what punishment, if any at all, will be handed down to the McMichaels, who were arrested last week, for their gruesome act. Holmes is Cobb County’s first female and African-American district attorney. She is also the fourth prosecutor to be involved with the case. Tom Durden, the district attorney for the Atlantic Judicial Circuit who said he would bring the case to a grand jury, will step aside, the AJC reports.