A Georgia lawmaker is calling for the removal of an embattled district attorney whose office has been accused of fumbling the investigation into the killing of Ahmaud Arbery.
In a memo State Rep. Jeff Jones wrote to Gov. Brian Kemp, he expressed “strong support” for the removal of Brunswick Judicial Circuit District Attorney Jackie Johnson. Johnson, who recused herself from the investigation into the men charged in Arbery’s death over a conflict of interest, has denied claims that she kept police from making arrests when Arbery was killed in February.
Gregory McMichael, one of three men charged in Arbery’s murder, once worked for Johnson as an investigator. He and his son, Travis, were arrested last month after the Georgia Bureau of Investigation took over the case.
“The Glynn County community is experiencing a high degree of pain and grief as a result of Ahmaud Arbery’s tragic death in February 2020,” Jones’ memo stated.
[DOCUMENT: View a PDF copy of the memo]
Arbery was shot and killed while jogging in the Satilla Shores neighborhood near Brunswick. Months later, only after the release of a video depicting the killing and increasing pressure from the public, the GBI stepped in and quickly made three arrests.
This is not the first time people of Glynn County have expressed dissatisfaction with local prosecutors. In 2003, Dennis Perry was convicted of the 1985 murders of Deacon Harold Swain and his wife, Thelma, inside the Rising Daughter Baptist Church in Waverly. Perry has maintained his innocence since his 2000 arrest but remains in custody at Coffee Correctional Facility.
“People who don’t do their jobs as a public servant — they need to go and somebody else replace them,” said Suzanne Baugh, Perry’s first cousin.
Johnson was not involved in the original Perry prosecution, but she is now reviewing the case. Baugh said she wants to see changes within the DA’s office now and backs the recommendation Jones made to Kemp.
A Kemp spokesperson did not comment directly on the memo but said that Georgia law requires the indictment of a district attorney before the governor can remove them.
“I thought his reasoning was good,” Baugh said. “I thought it stopped short of a long list of malfeasance by Jackie Johnson. I thought he could have gone further.”
In Jones’ letter to Kemp, he cited “years of the gross mismanagement and abject politicized manner” in which the DA’s office “has functioned.”
In April, Perry’s attorneys filed a motion asking for a new trial based on new DNA evidence in the case. In May, the GBI reopened the Swains’ murder case.
Perry is set to appear at the Glynn County Courthouse for a July 13 hearing on the motion for a new trial.
Attempts to reach Johnson for comment on this story were unsuccessful.
Below is Jones’ full letter to Kemp: