Cobb County, Ga., District Attorney Joyette Holmes will lead the prosecution of two men charged in the Ahmaud Arbery murder case. Arbery was unarmed and out for a jog when he was gunned down on Feb. 23 in Brunswick, Georgia, by a white father and son. It took 10 weeks for the duo to be arrested.
Their arrests came only after a video of the incident was released online. The public outrage seemed to force the hands of law enforcement officials, who previously had deemed the shooting justified. Gregory McMichael, 64, a retired police detective, and his son Travis, 34, were ultimately charged for murder and aggravated assault.
A police report said the McMichaels had grabbed two guns and followed Arbery in a truck after he ran past them. Gregory McMichael told police that Arbery resembled the suspect in a string of nearby break-ins, The New York Times reported.
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Georgia Attorney General Chris Carr named Holmes the new lead prosecutor in the case — the fourth since Arbery was killed.
Holmes is the district attorney of the Cobb County Judicial Circuit and the first Black woman to serve in that position, NPR reported.
But some are not convinced she will be the right one for the case, and many people went to Twitter to complain about her being selected. She is a former Republican who was appointed by Gov. Brian Kemp, NewsOne reported.
One person tweeted, “Joyette Holmes was appointee but let not forget that she is a republican and is very close with Gov. Kemp! Please let justice be prevailed in this case smh.”
In a statement on the Cobb County district attorney’s Facebook page, Holmes said, “Our office will immediately gather all materials related to the investigation thus far and continue to seek additional information to move this case forward.”
She added, “We appreciate the confidence that Attorney General Carr has in our office’s ability to bring to light the justice that this case deserves.”
Holmes has led the Cobb County District Attorney’s Office since July 2019. Prior to this, she was both a prosecutor and defense lawyer in the county, according to her biography on the county website.
Two other district attorneys recused themselves from the case. Brunswick Judicial Circuit District Attorney Jackie Johnson recused herself over a conflict of interest due to the fact that Gregory McMichael had worked in her office, Georgia Public Broadcasting reported.
George Barnhill also recused himself at the request of the Arbery family, who complained that Barnhill also had a conflict of interest because his son worked in Johnson’s office as an assistant district attorney, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported.
In further developments, Georgia’s attorney general requested that the Justice Department investigate local authorities’ handling of the investigation.
Justice Department spokesperson Kerri Kupec said that it is “assessing all of the evidence to determine whether federal hate crimes charges are appropriate.”
“In addition, we are considering the request of the Attorney General of Georgia and have asked that he forward to federal authorities any information that he has about the handling of the investigation. We will continue to assess all information, and we will take any appropriate action that is warranted by the facts and the law,” the Justice Department spokesperson said.
Benjamin Crump, an attorney for the Arbery family, praised the Holmes appointment.
“In order for justice to be carried out both effectively and appropriately in the murder of Ahmaud Arbery, it is imperative that the special prosecutor has no affiliation with the SE Georgia legal or law enforcement communities,” the statement said.
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“We implore District Attorney Joyette Holmes to be zealous in her search for justice, as she works to hold all of those responsible for the unjustifiable execution of an unarmed young Black man in broad daylight,” Crump added.
Before the McMichaels were arrested, various protests were organized, including one by the local chapter of the N.A.A.C.P. It was scheduled for May 8 — on what would have been Arbery’s 26th birthday — outside the courthouse in Brunswick, Ga. Also on that day, many people across the U.S. jogged 2.23 miles, marking the point in his run when Arbery was fatally shot.
The hashtag #IRunWithMaud has gone viral. Celebrities including LeBron James and Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden spoke out against the shooting.