Georgia’s attorney general Chris Carr has asked the Georgia Bureau of Investigation to look into possible prosecutorial misconduct in the handling of the Ahmaud Arbery case.
The investigation centers around the District Attorney’s offices of the Brunswick and Waycross judicial circuits who initially handled the case and did not make any arrests. The GBI, on the other hand, made an arrests almost immediately after the investigation into the case was turned over to the state agency.
In a letter to the GBI, Carr said he is concerned that local prosecutors in the case failed to disclose or misrepresented information during the process of appointing a conflict prosecutor to investigate Arbery’s death.
Below is the portion of Carr’s letter relating to how local prosecutors handled the case prior to it being turned over to the GBI.
“February 27, 2020, the Attorney General’s Office received a letter from Jackie Johnson, the District Attorney of the Brunswick Judicial Circuit, advising that she had a conflict and that she was requesting the appointment of another prosecutor. Ms. Johnson wrote that the reason for the conflict was because the investigation into Mr. Arbery’s death involved Greg McMichael, a former investigator with her office. Shortly after receipt of Ms. Johnson’s letter, this office was made aware that Ms. Johnson had contacted George Barnhill, District Attorney of the Waycross Judicial Circuit, and that he had agreed to accept the case. This office confirmed with Mr. Barnhill and, pursuant to O.C.G.A. § 15-18-5, this office appointed Mr. Barnhill to prosecute the case on the same date Ms. Johnson’s letter was received.
“Not long after Mr. Barnhill’s appointment, he and Ms. Johnson learned that Mr. Barnhill’s son, an assistant district attorney in Ms. Johnson’s office, had worked with Mr. McMichael on a prosecution involving Mr. Arbery. Mr. Barnhill, however, held onto the case for several more weeks after making this discovery. On April 7, 2020, the Attorney General received correspondence from Mr. Barnhill advising of a conflict and requesting the appointment of another prosecutor. Mr. Barnhill cited his son’s involvement with Mr. McMichael and Mr. Arbery as a reason for his request.
“Mr. Barnhill’s letter failed to disclose his involvement in this case prior to his appointment. In her conflict letter of February 27, 2020, Ms. Johnson had advised that the Glynn County Police Department was “currently investigating” the shooting death of Mr. Arbery, and that she was requesting new counsel to advise the police. Unknown and undisclosed to the Attorney General, however, Mr. Barnhill had already provided an opinion to the Glynn County Police Department on February 24, 2020, that he did not see grounds for the arrest of any of the individuals involved in Mr. Arbery’s death. He additionally stated his opinion to the Glynn County Police Department in writing that there was insufficient probable cause to make any arrests in the case and that he would be asking the Attorney General to appoint another prosecutor.”
Last week, the GBI arrested Gregory McMichael and his son Travis McMichael. Both were charged with murder and aggravated assault. They have been taken into custody and will be booked into the Glynn County jail.
On Feb. 23, Arbery was in the Satilla Shores neighborhood in Brunswick, when both Gregory and Travis McMichael confronted Arbery with two firearms. During the encounter, GBI officials say Travis McMichael shot and killed Arbery.