Ahmaud Arbery: I don’t think there can be justice…

7 January 2022

Ahmaud Arbery

Sentences for the men who hunted down and murdered Ahmaud Arbery were handed down in a Brunswick, Georgia courtroom today.  Two of the men, Greg and Travis McMichael, were sentenced to life without parole plus additional years.  William Bryan was sentenced to life with the possibility of parole and a consecutive number of years.  This means, for Bryan, that after he is eligible for parole in 30 years, this additional sentenced will be added on.

There is no way to celebrate the sentencing of men to prison, but these men participated in a crime so hateful and cruel no other alternative was possible.  It bears remembering, though, that had this case been left in the local jurisdiction, there would have been no trial, no conviction, no sentencing.

The local Glynn County authorities tried their hardest to cover up, gloss over, minimize this case.  The District Attorney at the time, Jackie Johnson, has herself been indicted for the way she handled the case. 

Because of the tenacity of Ahmaud Arbery’s mother and the work of various other civil rights activists, this case not only was brought to trial, but was taken out of the hands of the local authorities.   So many things had to go perfectly for a guilty verdict to have been rendered. 

As a citizen of Glynn County I am still amazed that a nearly all-white jury handed down a guilty verdict.

But, as the prosecutor pointed out, even though the actual chase and killing of Ahmaud Arbery involved minutes, this event was a product of years of preparation.  The men involved spent years festering in a stew of racial hatred, suspicion, and entitlement.  That has not gone away.  It was obvious from the testimony of some of the people in the Satilla Shores neighborhood that they shared the ingrained racism of the defendants.

I do not believe that the case of the District Attorney has been taken out of the hands of local authorities.     

When the Ahmaud Arbery case was first being tried, members of the families of others who had been violently treated by local police (and police pretenders) were present.  The parents of a young woman who had been shot through the windshield of her parked car and killed were present.  The police officers involved were protected and not prosecuted by the office of Jackie Johnson.  There are many other cases handled by the DA’s office that we don’t even know about.

I don’t think there can be justice when a young man is hunted down and shot in the street for nothing more than being in a neighborhood where men are prepared to kill if they cannot intimidate.  We will soon see if this justice extends to the people who tried to cover it up. 

Ahmaud Arbery: Jury Selection

Ahmaud Arbery Case: Day 2

Blog #6

Jury Selection

It was reported that the Court in Brunswick, Georgia was going to go into the night selecting jurors, but instead the court stopped jury selection around 6 PM. 

Today, jury selection continues with general questioning by the Prosecutor, Dunikoski.  Dunikoski and the other prosecutors on the team are not from Glynn County where Ahmaud Arbery was killed.  They are instead from Cobb County.  Dunikoski seemed concerned yesterday that jurors would hold prosecutors responsible for corruption cases in and around Atlanta.  The judge, however, did not see the benefit of introducing that subject into the jury questioning.

Dunikoski did, however today, ask the prospective jurors if they had any negative feelings or weren’t going to be able to be fair because the prosecution team was not from Glynn County.  No one raised their hands.

Jurors were asked:

  • If they were law enforcement personnel.
  • If they knew or were related to the present DA in Glynn County.
  • If they knew or were related to the former DA in Glynn County.
  • Note: The former DA was indicted for her handling of the Ahmaud Arbery case and it is widely believed that she lost reelection because of this.
  • Whether they knew any of the defendants (several did)
  • Whether they had served on a jury and whether that jury reached a verdict.
  • Whether they had had negative experiences with law enforcement (one did)
  • Whether they had had bad experiences with prosecutors (the same juror had)
  • Whether they had been arrested, or prosecuted for a crime (three had)
  • Whether they had a close friend or relative who had been arrested, prosecuted or convicted of a crime. (eight had)
  • Whether they had been a victim of a burglary or a home invasion (five had)
  • Whether they had given a statement to law enforcement (gone to the police department and given a statement) (four had)
  • Whether they owned a gun (11 did)
  • Whether they had carried a gun as part of their work (four)
  • Whether they had lived in Glynn County for less than five years.
  • The DA then went through a list of witnesses and asked if the potential jurors knew any of them. 

The jury pool was asked whether because of religious or moral reasons they could not pass judgement on another person.  Three raised their hands.

Five said they belonged to no organization, religious or other.

When asked if they had ever been arrested and treated unfairly, two jurors raised their hands.

Note: Juror 69 raised his hand in a number of these questions.

FOR ALMOST THREE MONTHS THERE WERE NO ARRESTS AFTER THE KILLING OF AHMAUD ARBERY IN GLYNN COUNTY, GEORGIA

Cars line up along Highway 17 in Glynn County, Georgia to protest the County handling of the shooting death of Ahmaud Arbery.

AHMAUD ARBERY

#2 PROSECUTORS

The date for the trial of the three men who hunted down Ahmaud Arbery and shot him in the street is October 18, 2021 in the Glynn County Courthouse, Brunswick, Georgia.

For almost three months after Arbery, 25, was shot and killed, there were no arrests, no charges brought and almost no local press coverage.  But one of the men who joined the chase of Arbery as Arbery jogged through a Brunswick, Georgia neighborhood filmed the chase and the shooting.  When the video went viral, media attention was attracted to the case.  At that point, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI) took the investigation out of the hands of local officials.  Charges were brought in days.

The local prosecutor in Brunswick, Georgia, Jackie Johnson, where the shooting occurred recused herself almost immediately.  Gregory McMichaels, 64, had been a police investigator in her office.  After making a decision to recuse herself, Johnson contacted another local prosecutor, George E. Barnhill, Sr., and asked him to advise the county police department about the case. 

Barnhill then advised the Glynn County Police Department that the three men who armed themselves and pursued Ahmaud Arbery in a suburban neighborhood and then shot him in the street, appeared to have been acting in self-defense. 

At much the same time as she was contacting Barnhill Sr. and asking him to consult with the Glynn County Police Department, Johnson, contacted the state Attorney General and requested a new prosecutor.  The state Attorney General assigned the case to Barnhill Sr., the same Barnhill who had been asked by Johnson to give advice to the Glynn County Police Department.   It is unclear whether Johnson recommended Barnhill to the state Attorney General.  It seems likely that she did.  It was later revealed that Johnson did not tell the state Attorney General that she had requested Barnhill, Sr. to give advice on prosecution to the Glynn County Police Department.

After Barnhill, Sr. was given the case, the family of Ahmaud Arbery found out that Barnhill Sr.’s son worked in Johnson’s office.  They then objected to the elder Barnhill’s appointment.  As far as can be determined, the family was not aware at the time that Johnson had asked and Barnhill,Sr. had already advised the Glynn County Police Department on prosecuting the case.  They were, however, aware that Barnhill Sr.’s son, George F. Barnhill, not only worked as an attorney in the Brunswick DA’s office, but that the younger Barnhill had worked with Gregory McMichaels, on a case against Ahmaud Arbery years before.

After being notified by the family of their objections, Georgia Attorney General, Chris Carr took the Sr. Barnhill off the case and assigned the case to Tom Durden from the Atlantic Judicial Circuit in Hinesville.  Durden announced plans in early May of (2020?) to ask a grand jury to consider criminal charges.

Carr later made a statement that the elder Barnhill never mentioned potential conflicts when he was initially asked to take over the case, nor did Barnhill Sr. mention that he had already offered the Glynn County police department an “initial opinion.”  This opinion was that the three men had most likely acted in self defense, i.e., that they should not be prosecuted.

The case was later transferred to the DA in Cobb County, Georgia.  It is unclear why Durden was taken off the case.  

The Atlanta Journal Constitution reported in June of 2021 that a grand jury had been convened to investigate the actions of DA Jackie Johnson in the Ahmaud Arbery case.

Glynn County, Georgia: Site of the Aubery Killings

browning Michael Browning, Glynn County Commission

 

It was in Glynn County, Georgia that three men stalked and killed Ahmaud Arbery.  One of the men documented the killing on video.  But, when police from the Glynn County Police Department arrived at the scene of the murder, they made no arrests.  One of the three men, Gregory McMichaels, is a former police officer and investigator for the Glynn County DA’s office.  Gregory McMichaels, his son Travis, and a neighbor who filmed the murder were allowed to go home after pretty much dictating the police report.

Later, another officer from the Glynnn County Police Department phoned the mother of jogger, Ahmaud Arbery, and told her that her son had been killed in a burglary.  This was untrue.

The DA in the county promptly recused herself from the case giving as the reason that Gregory McMichael had worked as a police officer in the 1980s and in the district attorney’s office until 2019.  She passed the case on to another DA who maintained that the two men were acting in self defense and should not be charged.

The case was later shifted to another DA.

Meanwhile, the Aubery family’s lawyer released the videotape of the killing and there was a public outcry as citizens watched these three men shoot and kill another man in broad daylight.

After bringing in investigators from the state, the three men were eventually charged, but only after a public outcry and national coverage of the murder.

Much of the attention in the case has been on the District Attorneys involved and their unwillingness to bring charges against the three men.  What should also have been brought out was the history of the Glynn County Police Department which not only failed to make an arrest in the case, but for whom one of the assailants (Gregory McMichael) used to work as a police officer and investigator.

The Glynn County Police Department has a history and it is not a proud one.  As Page Page, a criminal defense attorney in Glynn County stated in an interview, “There is not just one prior case.  There are many prior cases.  And each one is a separate Netflix episode.”

In 2018, Glynn County Police Lt. Robert Sasser killed his estranged wife and a man she had been seeing.  He then took his own life.  This final act followed a history of problematic behavior, much of it witnessed by members of the very police department he worked for.  But, that police department failed to act.

The family of Sasser’s wife is now suing the police department arguing that the department’s failure to act led to their daughter’s death.

In 2010, Sasser and another officer were involved in a brutal police shooting of a woman who led them on a low-speed chase.  The officers opened fire on her.  Nevertheless, Sasser avoided any punishment for the act and remained on the force.  The family of this woman is also taking legal action.

In 2018, the police department saw its certification with the state taken away because it did not meet basic police standards.  Part of the report that led to the de-certification noted that even though African Americans make up 26% of the population in the county, they make up only %12 of the police force.

In 2019, the county’s drug task force was disbanded after a state-led investigation.  This investigation found misconduct by Glynn County police officers, one of whom was having sex with an informant.

Then, Glynn County Police Chief John Powell, was indicted for perjury and witness tampering.  This was four days after the Arbery shooting.  This police chief remains on administrative leave.

County Commissioners have defended the police department handling of the Arbery case.  They blamed the DA for the decision not to arrest the three.  Commissioner Peter Murphy said that the police were told by the DA’s office not to make an arrest.

The DA, Jackie Johnson, says her office didn’t tell the police whether to make an arrest.  Johnson maintained that the police and the county commission wanted to smear her.

“I think it’s retaliation for me being the whistleblower on their police department multiple times over the last year.”

We have no idea what this means.

In June of 2020, the Glynn County Commissioners (some of whom are lame ducks leaving office) met to approve creating a new job for the Police Chief, John Powell.  Approximately $150,000 of county “reserve” funds were to be used to make a job for the indicted Police Chief.

But, the local newspaper, the Brunswick News, reported that the vote was to occur.  When the County Commissioners met at a scheduled meeting all had agreed to, two of the members were missing.   One of the Commissioners gave a statement to the local newspaper that it would be “unfair” for the Commission to go ahead without the missing two members.

I suspect that what he meant was that they didn’t want to go ahead unless all the Commissioners were implicated in the decision.

The members present voted to “defer” the decision about using county funds during a pandemic to create a job for the indicted police chief.  The Commissioners failed to reveal when they planned on meeting again.

The outrage about the history of the Glynn County Police Department had led to a bill passed by the Georgia legislature allowing the citizens of Glynn County to vote on whether they wanted to dissolve the Police Department entirely.

The Glynn County Commissioners announced through one Michael Browning (one of the lame ducks) that the County Commission would hire lawyers and pay them with county funds to sue the state of Georgia if they went ahead with plans to allow the citizens of Glynn County to vote on dissolving the police department.

 

The Brunswick News and the Arbery Killing

videoVideo of protest about the killing of Ahmaud Arbery.

This is a letter to the editor that appeared in the Brunswick News (5/14/20).  It needs to be pointed out, however, that the Brunswick News is consistently filled with right-wing material and right-wing political commentary from syndicated columnists.  The editorial page regularly includes an article by the now deceased Billy Graham.  The newspaper also frequently publishes what are essentially campaign ads for the current Representative, (Not your) Buddy Carter.

Letter to the Editor, Brunswick News.  5/14/20.

I never thought that I would be a protester. My mom and dad raised me to respect the law and to submit to authority.

Then a young man was murdered.

I initially called for peace and trust. I worked with law enforcement officials during my career in child protection. In my day, we all dedicated our lives to being moral and ethical servants of our community.

Somehow, Jackie Johnson was elected to work with us, as our chief law enforcement officer. Things changed.

A police officer stalked his wife and subsequently killed her. He was shielded by the DAs office.

A former employee, armed and angry, kills a young man. We now know that she instructed that her former employee not be arrested before recusing herself and hand-picking her successor, who likewise refused to make an arrest. We then learn that he was also conflicted and indebted to DA Johnson through his son’s employment.

The governor needs to suspend DA Johnson until such time as she can be investigated. We need to be able to have faith that “equal protection under the law” are not hollow words.

DA Johnson, step down. We have no faith in you.

Mark Newman