In November 2021, Travis McMichael, his father Greg McMichael, and their neighbor William Bryan were convicted of murdering 25-year-old Ahmaud Arbery as he jogged through the Satilla Shores area of Glynn County, Georgia. In January, the three men were sentenced to life in prison, the father and son McMichaels without the possibility of parole. The three racist men targeted Arbery because of the color of his skin, erroneously assumed he was some kind of burglar, and then chased after him in a pickup truck before attacking Arbery with a shotgun. Arbery defended himself and then was shot three times and killed. The entire hate crime was captured on Bryan’s cell phone.
Arbery was killed on Feb. 23, 2020, but it wasn’t until May when a criminal defense attorney leaked the tape of his murder to a Georgia radio station that the world began putting pressure on the unconscionably slow legal process unfolding in Glynn County. It took the Glynn County Police Department months to even arrest the men guilty of Arbery’s murder, and it didn’t take a long walk of logic to know the fact that Gregory McMichael was a former prosecutorial investigator with ties to the local police department might have something to do with it all.
On Thursday, CBS News reported that convicted murderer Gregory McMichael, the father of Travis McMichael who reportedly fired the killing shots, had no fewer than 16 calls with then-Glynn County District Attorney Jackie Johnson. Peculiar, yes?
The reported 16 phone calls between Johnson and McMichael began the day after he and his son killed Arbery. That first phone call lasted “more than nine minutes,” according to a court filing. Over the next few weeks, McMichael and Johnson spoke a total of 16 times, though about half of those calls lasted less than a minute, which could mean they either went unanswered or could have been a code for shady behavior—though the latter is entirely speculation.
Johnson was indicted in September on counts of obstruction and for violations of her oath. The charges assert that Johnson used her position of power to not simply delay arresting any of the three men involved in Arbery’s murder, but tried to “discourage police from doing so as well.” Johnson’s defense is that she recused herself from the case because Gregory McMichael had previously worked in her office.
The charges against her say that she failed to disclose that she had sought the assistance of Waycross Judicial Circuit District Attorney George E. Barnhill on the case before recusing herself. Barnhill reportedly told the Glynn County Police Department the day after Arbery’s murder that "he did not see grounds for the arrest of any of the individuals involved in Mr. Arbery’s death." Barnhill eventually recused himself from the case as well. Prosecutors say that Johnson recused herself after making sure that the case would be taken over by someone who had already agreed to it being a self-defense case.
During her reelection campaign, Johnson told constituents that she was being falsely accused. Kake.com reports that during an October 2020 debate Johnson had this to say: "It is a tragedy for the family. I'm sorry how things happened. I'm sorry that a lie got started and I could not turn it back." Johnson lost her reelection bid.
The Ahmaud Arbery trial exposed what many Black people in America have long known: There is not only a general systemic racism ever present in our country’s institutions, but that the law enforcement apparatus and the judicial branch of our government is steeped in racism and white supremacy.
Published with permission of Daily Kos.