With closing arguments in the trial of the three white men accused of killing Ahmaud Arbery set to begin Monday, a local organization is encouraging people to commit their time and energy to organize and dream “beyond the verdict.”
Formed in May 2020 after the killing of Ahmaud Arbery at the hands of a father and son vigilante duo, A Just Georgia has a broad mandate forward. Beyond the verdict, the group has emphasized the need for transparent investigations of police misconduct and prosecutorial accountability for the first two prosecutors who obstructed justice.
“Fighting beyond the verdict means we must focus on the systemic issues that encouraged the criminalization of Ahmaud while coddling his killers,” the group stated. “George Barnhill and Jackie Johnson attempted to help Ahmaud’s killers escape prosecution. Neither prosecutor has been prohibited from practicing law.”
Much of the focus in prosecutorial misconduct has been on Jackie Johnson, the former district attorney who initially handled the McMichaels case and effectively blocked any legal action. But for the advocacy of the family and local community, this trial would likely never happen.
As former Georgia NAACP President Rev. James Woodall pointed out in a Twitter thread Sunday, both Johnson and Waycross Judicial Circuit District Attorney George Barnhill operated in a manner that focused on shielding the McMichaels, and indirectly William “Roddie” Bryan, from legal repercussions.
Per his letter, Barnhill coordinated with Johnson before being officially assigned to the case. Along with Johnson, Barnhill gave the opinion that there were no grounds for arresting Arbery’s killers the day after the deadly incident.
Barnhill further states the three men operated within Georgia law but misrepresented the facts to fit within the prior Citizens Arrest statute. Nothing he cited justified the murder of an unsuspecting person.
Despite his actions, Barnhill has not been charged in connection with the case and has not faced any sanctions or other penalties from the state bar. In his nearly 40 years of experience, it was perfectly fine for three white men to murder a Black man because of “fear,” but not reasonable to understand that Arbery should be allowed to defend himself against provocation.
Allowing Barnhill to remain in practice and prosecuting cases remains an issue for the organizers with A Just Georgia. While a statewide organization, A Just Georgia focuses on lifting up and empowering local communities to lead in matters of injustice and nurturing existing leadership. In an interview last month with NPR, A Better Glynn co-founder Elijah B. Henderson questioned the ability to sustain momentum.
“Can we sustain any of this momentum toward true equity, equality and justice?” he asks. “Or are we just stuck in a cycle of some people get it and some people don’t at all? It depends. The American Constitution should not be a parchment of ‘it depends.’”
Focusing on real equity, equality and justice have been part of the mission of A Better Glynn and other local formations which seek to move the region forward. Part of the effort led to Johnson losing her re-election bid last November.
Beyond this trial, the broader issues of regional prosecutorial misconduct and charging discretion can be seen in the case of Marc Wilson. Wilson has been detained for 500 days without a fair chance at bail and little chance of a fair trial so long as the current judge remains over the case. There has been a push for the judge’s recusal.
Like the case with Arbery, Wilson’s case raises the question of who is seen as worthy of invoking self-defense and being in reasonable fear of their lives. Wilson has stated he was in fear of his life and his girlfriend after a group of drunken white teens tried to run them off the road last June.
The Arbery and Wilson cases cannot simply be dismissed as just being Georgia or the south. The injustice present in both is a feature of the system, not a bug. Coverage of the Arbery case has highlighted the racism present in the courtroom, but it’s a symptom of a broader issue within the American legal system.
“The unspoken notion that courtrooms are white spaces for white actors to exact “justice” upon Black people persists in this country,” A Just Georgia tweeted last week in response to a defense attorney attacking Arbery’s mother for being understandably upset at reliving the trauma of her son’s killing. “The sentiment serves to undermine the dignity and curtail the basic rights of Black people whether they are the victim or the accused.”
A Disturbing Timeline Of Ahmaud Arbery's Killing And Murder Investigation In Georgia
1. October 20191 of 43
2. November 2019
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This video is from 11/17. Larry English called 911 on 11/18 and said he had a problem with "other people" the night before. This appears to show that day and is from English's attorney. There is no record of neighbors calling 911 this day, based off records from Glynn Co 911 pic.twitter.com/BXlyYEaBcL— Wright Gazaway (@WrightKATU) May 15, 2020
3. Dec. 20, 2019
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Police told the homeowner where #AhmaudArbery was last seen to contact Greg McMichael if his cameras caught someone on his property. McMichael in turn gathered a posse & began hunting for Ahmaud, or someone who fit his description, catching up with him on 2/23/20– killing him. pic.twitter.com/BmlmW636f5— Lee Merritt (@MerrittForTexas) May 16, 2020
4. Dec. 20, 2019
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This is the man that set the plan in motion that led to the murder of #AhmaudArbery.— Lee Merritt (@MerrittForTexas) May 18, 2020
ROBERT RASH is a Glynn County Police Officer.
He instructed a homeowner to contact Gregory McMichael to deal w/ trespassers.
McMichael and his son formed a posse and murdered Ahmaud Arbery. pic.twitter.com/ZqZg567Agp
5. Feb. 11, 2020
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Larry English’s attorney gave me this video from Feb 11. It shows the incident outlined in my story when Travis McMichael called 911 and saw someone in the home. On 2/23, he and his father thought the Abrery was who they saw on the 11th pic.twitter.com/C2gVJCJ3xQ— Wright Gazaway (@WrightKATU) May 14, 2020
6. Feb. 23Source:Getty 6 of 43
7. Feb. 27, 2020
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This is the DA who blocked the arrest of 2 white supremacist TERRORISTS after they murdered an innocent black man execution style while he was jogging in his neighborhood— StanceGrounded (@_SJPeace_) May 9, 2020
JACKIE JOHNSON NEEDS TO BE HELD ACCOUNTABLE FOR OBSTRUCTING & ENDANGERING THE LIVES OF BLACK MEN
ARREST HER pic.twitter.com/ngSIEGMCq1
8. Feb. 27, 20208 of 43
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10. March 2020
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If you’re wondering why no charges were initially filed on the murderers of #AhmaudArbery, it’s because D.A. George Barnhill immediately concluded Arbery was a criminal & that he attacked the men who were hunting him.— Benjamin Dixon (@BenjaminPDixon) May 7, 2020
This is letter Barnhill sent to the Brunswick authorities pic.twitter.com/vsGCboful7
11. April 2, 2020
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Police report sheds more light on Satilla Shores shooting https://t.co/Zi6YVGTkhK— The Brunswick News (@Brunswick_News) April 2, 2020
12. April 3, 202012 of 43
13. April 1313 of 43
14. April 26, 2020
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We’ll never know how often Black life is taken, justice denied:— Dr. Malinda S. Smith (@MalindaSmith) May 9, 2020
“Two Weapons, a Chase, a Killing and No Charges.
A 25-year-old man running through a Georgia neighborhood ended up dead. A prosecutor argued that the pursuers should not be arrested” @nytimes https://t.co/pJA6kSK6cj
15. April 28, 202015 of 43
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20. May 8, 2020
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On what would have been his 26th birthday, people were jogging 2.23 miles in his honor to signify the date he was killed by Gregory and Travis McMichael, who racially profiled and shot the jogger in Brunswick, Georgia. #IrunwithMaud #IRunwithAhmaudhttps://t.co/V2KuBaeKjx— NewsOne (@newsone) May 9, 2020
21. May 9, 2020Source:Getty 21 of 43
22. May 10, 202022 of 43
23. May 11, 2020
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Another huge WIN for #JusticeForAhmaud! At the family’s demand— a special prosecutor will replace Tom Durden the S. GA prosecutor that sat on the case until video of Ahmaud’s murder was leaked. Joyette Holmes is out of @cobbcountygovt. Her office is being reviewed for conflicts. pic.twitter.com/rcuQ7UPOfE— Lee Merritt (@MerrittForTexas) May 11, 2020
24. May 12, 2020Source:Twitter 24 of 43
25. May 13, 2020
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“Ahmaud, I am so sorry. I should have stopped them,” reads the note. “I am so sorry.” The card was not signed by a name and no more information or context was provided, including when the card was left there. https://t.co/nzzY5aNple— NewsOne (@newsone) May 14, 2020
26. May 14, 2020Source:Getty 26 of 43
27. May 18, 2020
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Because this story wasn't bad enough now we discover Lindsay McMichael, the daughter and sister of Ahmaud Arbery’s alleged killers, posted a picture of Ahmaud’s deceased body to snapchat pic.twitter.com/RwTwzrAXAG— Reese Waters (@reesewaters) May 19, 2020
28. May 18, 202028 of 43
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30. May 20, 2020
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Today, the GA Congressional Delegation co-signed a letter to U.S. AG William Barr and Asst AG Eric Dreiband, encouraging the use of “all possible Federal resources to achieve full justice, transparency, and accountability in the case of Mr. Ahmaud Arbery.” https://t.co/8FcMZEEKWF— John Lewis (@repjohnlewis) May 20, 2020
31. May 21, 2020Source:WJAX 31 of 43
32. May 25, 2020
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NEW: Attorneys for Ahmaud Arbery's parents announce that the Department of Justice will be investigating Arbery's killing and why it took so long to arrest the people responsible. See their statement here: pic.twitter.com/yfcnrT5SjV— Hayley Mason (@HayleyMasonTV) May 26, 2020
33. June 2020
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Reports of a photo op with the president or standing with the White House during the EO signing are false.— Lee Merritt (@MerrittForTexas) June 16, 2020
Show me the civil rights leaders who are upset about families making a direct appeal for federal intervention after the murder of their loved one & I’ll show you a clown. pic.twitter.com/GXR5arB8Mz
34. June 17, 2020Source:WJAX 34 of 43
35. November 2020Source:Getty 35 of 43
36. December 2020
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William ‘Roddie’ Bryan tried to publicly absolve himself of having any part in Ahmaud Arbery’s modern-day lynching, but this newly released bodycam footage confirms what we long suspected: He clearly used his truck to block Ahmaud's escape from the McMichaels! pic.twitter.com/UAms4LYS28— Ben Crump (@AttorneyCrump) December 15, 2020
37. January 2021Source:Getty 37 of 43
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40. April 2021Source:Getty 40 of 43
41. May 2021Source:Getty 41 of 43
42. September 2021
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This is the mugshot of disgraced District Attorney Jackie Johnson who was just arrested today for her role in the coverup of the murder of Ahmaud Arbery. pic.twitter.com/OKF2xKkV3Z— Lee Merritt (@MerrittForTexas) September 8, 2021
43. October 2021Source:Getty 43 of 43
Beyond The Verdict: Coalition Sees Justice For Ahmaud Arbery As A Beginning Of A More Just Georgia was originally published on newsone.com