COBB COUNTY, GA — The first black woman to serve as district attorney for the Cobb County Judicial Circuit on Monday was appointed by Georgia’s attorney general to prosecute two white men charged in the shooting death of Ahmaud Arbery. National attention prompted federal involvement in the case after a video surfaced of Arbery, who was fatally shot while jogging through his coastal Georgia neighborhood earlier this year.
Joyette M. Holmes, a black district attorney from the Atlanta area, is the fourth prosecutor who has been assigned the case. Tom Durden, district attorney of the Atlantic Judicial circuit, had the case before her.
“Our office will immediately gather all materials related to the investigation thus far and continue to seek additional information to move this case forward,” Holmes said in a statement. “We appreciate the confidence that Attorney General Carr has in our office’s ability to bring to light the justice that this case deserves.”
In a statement Monday, according to several reports, 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.
Carr has also asked the U.S. Department of Justice to investigate the handling of the Arbery case.
Arbery, 25, was jogging through his Satilla Shores neighborhood in Brunswick around 1 p.m. Feb. 23 when he was chased down and killed by two white men, his family said. Retired police detective 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.
It’s unclear when the grand jury will consider the evidence amid closures due to the coronavirus pandemic, but the freeze on empaneling grand juries will last until at least June 12.
Holmes will prosecute McMichael and his son Travis McMichael for the felony murder and aggravated assault of Arbery.
In a viral video that’s shot from inside a vehicle, Arbery is seen jogging when he came upon a white truck. The younger man was standing beside an open driver’s-side door as the older man stood in the bed, armed with a pistol. In a confrontation with the younger man, three shotgun blasts were heard and Arbery stumbled to the pavement.
He was pronounced dead at the scene.
“This is murder,” S. Lee Merritt, the Arbery family’s attorney, said in a statement. “The series of events captured in this video confirm what all the evidence indicated prior to its release.”
Arbery would have turned 26 on Friday. The hashtag #IRunWithMaud has been shared across social media by supporters who have documented 2.23-mile runs and walks, to remember Arbery.
Carr on May 10 asked the U.S. Department of Justice, led by U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Georgia Bobby Christine, to investigate the handling of the Arbery case.
“We are committed to a complete and transparent review of how the Ahmaud Arbery case was handled from the outset,” Carr said in a statement. “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.”
The request to the U.S. Department of Justice includes, but is not limited to, investigation of the communications and discussions by and 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.
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