ATLANTA (WSAV) – The U.S. Department of Justice is now “considering” investigating the handling of Ahmaud Arbery’s case as a new district attorney takes lead.
On Monday, Attorney General Chris Carr announced Cobb Judicial Circuit District Attorney Joyette Holmes will take over Atlantic Judicial Circuit District Attorney Tom Durden’s role.
She’s now the fourth DA to become involved in the handling of Arbery’s case.
“This case has grown in size and magnitude since he accepted the appointment on April 13, 2020, and as an experienced District Attorney, Tom has recognized that another office is better suited from a resource perspective to now handle the case,” Carr said. “As a result, he has requested our office to appoint another District Attorney.”
Gov. Brian Kemp applauded the decision on Twitter.
“I am confident that she will serve with integrity and transparency to ensure justice is served,” he said.
The attorneys for Arbery’s mother, S. Lee Merritt and L. Chris Stewart, said they requested Carr to replace Durden “because the south Georgia prosecutorial community was tainted by the delay in action prior to the video being released.”
“This case has been mishandled from the very beginning and we look forward to a comprehensive third-party investigation by the Department of Justice into the previous prosecutors,” the attorneys added.
Carr announced Sunday he formally requested the Department of Justice to investigate the handling of Arbery’s case.
DOJ Director of the Office of Public Affairs Kerri Kupec released the following statement in response:
The Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice, the FBI, and the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Georgia have been supporting and will continue fully to support and participate in the state investigation. We are 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.
According to the attorney general, the request includes, but isn’t limited to, investigating communication between the Office of the District Attorney of the Brunswick Judicial Circuit and the Office of the District Attorney of the Waycross Judicial Circuit related to this case.
“We are committed to a complete and transparent review of how the Ahmaud Arbery case was handled from the outset,” Carr stated. “The family, the community and the state of Georgia deserve answers, and we will work with others in law enforcement at the state and federal level to find those answers.”
Brunswick District Attorney Jackie Johnson recused her office from the case shortly after the shooting due to the fact that Gregory McMichael, now facing a murder charge in Arbery’s death, was a former investigator there.
The case then went to Waycross District Attorney George Barnhill who also recused himself.
According to Carr, Barnhill indicated that he and Johnson learned that his son, employed as a prosecutor in the Brunswick District Attorney’s Office, handled a prior prosecution of Arbery. One of the defendants in that case had also served as an investigator on the same prosecution, the attorney general said.
Carr went on to explain that neither Johnson nor Barnhill told his office that they had already been involved in the case, reviewing evidence and advising the Glynn County Police Department whether to make arrests.
After Durden took over the case, he announced he was recommending that a grand jury consider criminal charges.
He also requested the Georgia Bureau of Investigation to investigate Arbery’s death last week, leading to the arrests of Gregory McMichael and his son Travis McMichael on Thursday.