A grand jury on Thursday indicted former Georgia prosecutor Jackie Johnson on two charges related to her alleged mishandling of the fatal shooting of 25-year old Ahmaud Arbery. Johnson, formerly the Brunswick Judicial Circuit District Attorney, is accused of violating her oath of office and obstruction of law enforcement.
Arbery was fatally shot in February 2020 while jogging through the Satilla Shores neighborhood in coastal Georgia, about 80 miles south of Savannah. The man who shot Arbery at close-range, Travis McMichael, his father Gregory McMichael and William Bryan are co-defendants in Arbery’s murder trial, which is expected to take place this fall. Gregory McMichael retired in 2019 from a decades-long career as an investigator with the District Attorney’s office, having served nine of those years under Johnson.
Although Johnson recused herself from the investigation citing conflict of interest, the grand jury indictment alleges that Johnson first sought advice from Waycross Judicial Circuit District Attorney George E. Barnhill, who she then recommended to the case. The indictment further alleges that Johnson attempted to prevent officers from making an arrest immediately following the shooting. Although the fatal shooting occurred in February, arrests were not made until May after the Georgia Bureau of Investigation became involved.
Arbery’s death quickly became part of a nation-wide racial justice movement that was also ignited by the deaths of other Black Americans, including Breonna Taylor and George Floyd.
In announcing the indictment, Georgia Attorney General Chris Carr stated:
Our office is committed to ensuring those who are entrusted to serve are carrying out their duties ethically and honestly…We thank the Georgia Bureau of Investigation and the Glynn County Grand Jury for their hard work. While an indictment was returned today, our file is not closed, and we will continue to investigate in order to pursue justice.
Johnson was voted out of office in 2020, “largely as a result of criticism over her handling of cases including Mr. Arbery’s.”