ATLANTA (CN) — Georgia’s attorney general Monday appointed Joyette M. Holmes, a black district attorney from the Atlanta area, to prosecute two white men charged in the shooting death of Ahmaud Arbery, who was killed while jogging in a residential neighborhood.
Holmes is the fourth prosecutor assigned to the case, which saw no arrests for over two months despite the existence of video footage of the shooting.
The district attorney of the Cobb County Judicial Circuit — and the first black woman to serve in that role — was tapped to prosecute Gregory McMichael, a retired police detective, and his son Travis McMichael for the felony murder and aggravated assault of Arbery after Tom Durden, district attorney of the Atlantic Judicial circuit, stepped aside.
Arbery, 25, was shot to death in Brunswick, Georgia, on Feb. 23 after allegedly being chased by the two white men who reportedly claimed they thought he matched the appearance of a burglary suspect.
Arbery’s family has said he was unarmed and jogging at the time of his death.
A video of the shooting went viral after it was posted online last week, provoking national outrage and scrutiny over why no arrests were made in the 10 weeks since the shooting.
Gregory McMichael, 64, and Travis McMichael, 34, were arrested Thursday by the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, two days after the agency took over the case from local authorities.
The Justice Department has said that federal prosecutors are also considering bringing hate crimes charges against the men. Georgia does not have a state hate crime law.
In a statement Monday, Georgia Attorney General Chris Carr said Durden asked to be replaced by someone with a larger staff and more resources because “this case has grown in size and magnitude.”
“District Attorney Holmes is a respected attorney with experience, both as a lawyer and a judge, and the Cobb County District Attorney’s office has the resources, personnel and experience to lead this prosecution and ensure justice is done,” Carr said.
Benjamin Crump, one of the three attorneys representing the Arbery family, urged 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.”
“In order for justice to be carried out both effectively and appropriately, it is imperative that the special prosecutor has no affiliation with the SE Georgia legal or law enforcement communities,” Crump said in a statement Monday.
The first prosecutor in the case, Jackie Johnson of the Brunswick Judicial Circuit, recused herself because Gregory McMichael worked as an investigator in her office before he retired in May 2019.
The second prosecutor, Waycross Judicial Circuit District Attorney George Barnhill, recused himself at the request of Arbery’s family after it was discovered that his son works in the district attorney’s office in Brunswick, where Gregory McMichael was employed.
Barnhill said in an April memo to Glynn County Police Captain Tom Jump that he did not believe the McMichaels committed any crime by shooting Arbery.
Carr asked the Department of Justice on Sunday to conduct an investigation into the handling of the case.
According to a statement released Sunday, Carr requested that the Department of Justice investigate “communications and discussions” between Johnson’s and Barnhill’s offices.
“We are committed to a complete and transparent review of how the Ahmaud Arbery case was handled from the outset,” Carr said. “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.”