Representatives of a newly formed group called Community First Planning Commission (CFPC) called for the immediate removal of Brunswick Judicial Circuit District Attorney Jackie Johnson and Waycross Judicial Circuit District Attorney George Barnhill during a press conference held Sept. 15. Pastor Darren West, who serves on the legal committee for the CFPC said it was time elected officials, “Do what they were elected to do.”
The group is pushing to create a citizen review board to handle complaints made against the Glynn County Police Department. This reaction came after hearing that Superior court Judge Paul Rose ruled that voters cannot vote on a planned referendum that could have abolished the Glynn County Police Department altogether. Rose made that ruling on Sept. 11, saying that the referendum was unconstitutional and must be removed from the Nov. 3 ballot.
Arbery was killed Feb. 23, while jogging in the Satilla Shores neighborhood in Brunswick. However, no arrests were made until May 7, two days after the third appointed District Attorney, Tom Durden of the Atlantic Judicial Circuit requested the GBI get involved in the On May 10, Georgia Attorney General Chris Carr formally requested the U.S. Department of Justice, led by U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Georgia, Bobby Christine, to conduct an investigation into the handling of the Arbery case, according to a press release issued from Carr’s Office. Carr also named Cobb County District Attorney Joyette Holmes as the new lead prosecutor to handle the case.
Carr said his office received a request in February from Johnson’s office to appoint another prosecutor. Carr appointed Barnhill but claims both DAs failed to let his office know that Barnhill had already begun reviewing evidence and advising the Glynn County Police Department regarding whether to make arrests in the case.
On May 7, GBI arrested Gregory and Travis McMichael and William “Roddy” Bryan. All three men entered a plea of not guilty mid-July during their arraignment and remain in jail without bond.
West said since then, no one from the Governor’s Office has kept them up to date on what is happening in the investigation against the two DA’s.
“On Feb 23 Ahmaud Arbery was lynched in our streets,” West said. “That means it has been over seven months since his murder and we still have not heard anything from the highest offices in the state of Georgia. Governor Brian Kemp, Lt. Gov. Jeff Duncan, Attorney General Christopher Carr, we are here today to serve you notice that your silence is deafening. Your silence has empowered those who would seek to violate the rights of the innocent. Your silence has furthered the cause of those who continue to oppress the innocent. It is time to clean up a corrupt justice system starting with DA Jackie Johnson and DA George Barnhill as well as the Glynn County Police Department.”
West said he will continue to demand justice until they hear from the Governor.
Arbery’s father, Marcus Arbery said that Jackie Johnson has not only failed his family but that she has failed the entire community and it was time for her to go.
“If this woman would have been doing her job, there are a lot of people who would be alive today,” he said. “It’s been hell. I wake up every day and struggle with the death of my son. I know I have to stay strong to keep fighting for him.”
He added that Johnson’s name should be removed from the Nov. 3 ballot.
“Do your job and remove this woman,” Arbery said to Gov. Kemp. “He knows she is corrupt, and the justice system is unbalanced. Remove her.”
Georgia ACLU Political Director Christopher Bruce said the nearly three-month delay of the arrests of the McMichaels and Williams was the direct result of Barnhill and Johnson’s mishandling of the case.
“They have lost the trust of the public and they must be removed,” Bruce said.
Bruce said the two DA’s circumvented the proper legal process of notifying the State’s Attorney General to immediately neutralize any possible conflicts of interest.
“Justice delayed is justice denied,” Bruce said.