Statement Upon Filing of Federal Charges in the Ahmaud Arbery Matter and Call for Speedy Resolution of the State and Federal Investigations into the Roles Played by Georgia Officials

Issued by the Fellowship of Reconciliation, the FOR Atlanta/Georgia chapter, and the Center for Jubilee, Reconciliation, and Healing, Inc.

Federal charges are, we agree with Wanda Cooper-Jones, mother of Ahmaud Arbery, “one step closer to justice for Ahmaud.”[i] But those indictments, announced on April 28 in the Southern District of Georgia, are not enough. What happened to the Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI) and Federal investigations into the State officials who allegedly covered up the murder of Mr. Arbery?

From the outset, the Brunswick (GA) Judicial Circuit District Attorney (Jackie Johnson) apparently acknowledged that she had a conflict of interest. Nonetheless, instead of fully recusing herself, the Brunswick District Attorney apparently put the Waycross Judicial Circuit District Attorney (George Barnhill) on the case–even though the Waycross (GA) District Attorney had a similar conflict of interest. And the Georgia Attorney General’s Office followed suit by appointing the Waycross District Attorney.

  • Why did the Brunswick District Attorney stay involved, and why was
    she allowed to stay involved, in the case even though she had a conflict?
  • Why was the Brunswick District Attorney allowed, despite her own
    conflict, to choose the Waycross District Attorney, also conflicted, as the
    next district attorney who would handle the case for the State of Georgia?
  • Why did the Georgia Attorney General’s Office compound these
    problems by appointing the Waycross District Attorney–even though the
    choice had been made by a conflicted Brunswick District Attorney and even
    though the Waycross District Attorney was himself conflicted out?
  • Why were these two District Attorneys allowed, despite the multiple
    conflicts, to handle the case for some 50 days?[ii] Why were these
    conflicted officials allowed to handle, and allegedly to suppress, the case even
    though apparently in possession, from early April 2020, of the video that
    would finally force the State of Georgia to take action?[iii] And even
    though, all along, Wanda Cooper-Jones was urging, to no avail, that this was
    improper?

The conduct of these officials has been under investigation by the United States Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Georgia and by the Georgia Bureau of Investigation since May 2020.[iv] But no findings have been made public. Once again, it has been left to Wanda Cooper-Jones to take action to hold Georgia officials accountable by bringing a private lawsuit concerning the alleged cover-up.[v]

But the burden should not be on Ms. Cooper-Jones. We demand that the Georgia Bureau of Investigation and the United States Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Georgia, together with the United States Justice Department, wrap up these investigations forthwith and tell us what they know.

End Notes:

[i] “3 Indicted on Federal Hate Crime Charges in Ahmaud Arbery Shooting” (April 28, 2021, The New York Times)
[ii] Mr. Arbery was murdered on February 23, 2020, and the third prosecutor
was put on the case April 13, 2020. “Ahmaud Arbery Shooting: A Timeline of the Case” (April 29, 2021, The New York Times)
[iii]  “Ahmaud Arbery Case Draws Visceral Attention Near and Far” (May 15, 2020, Political Rewind, Georgia Public Broadcasting)
[iv]  “Ahmaud Arbery Case Draws Visceral Attention Near and Far” (May 15, 2020, Political Rewind, Georgia Public Broadcasting)
[v] “Ahmaud Arbery’s mother files multi-million dollar lawsuit on anniversary of son’s death” (Feb. 23, 2021, The Hill)