Ahmaud Arbery’s Alleged Murderers Almost Escaped Charges, Thanks to Prosecutorial Misconduct

The defense attorneys in the Ahmaud Arbery murder trial—representing Travis McMichael, 35, his father Gregory McMichael, 65, and friend William “Roddie” Bryan, 52, who stand accused of tracking down and killing Arbery during a so-called citizen’s arrest—have arguably stolen the show. Bryan’s attorney Kevin Gough requested that Bryan not allow “high-profile African Americans,” such as Al Sharpton to enter the courtroom. “We don’t need any more black pastors entering here,” he stated. Laura Hogue (an attorney for Gregory McMichael) raised the stakes yesterday by referring to Arbery’s outfit: “khaki pants with no socks to protect his dirty, long toenails.”

But the defense has diverted attention away from Jackie Johnson’s seediness as a prosecutor. In September, Johnson was charged with violating her oath, and hindering police. Johnson is accused of allegedly giving McMichaels favorable treatment, and making sure that they were not arrested for Arbery’s murder.

These charges are not common against prosecutors.

Arbery and the McMichaels were chased by McMichaels in their truck as they drove through Georgia’s neighborhood. The McMichaels claimed that Arbery was involved with a number of burglaries. Later, investigators found out that Arbery was responsible for only one burglary. It had been reported seven months prior. Bryan was the third to join the pursuit, driving his own car. Arbery was eventually captured. After a short struggle with Arbery who was unarmed and two of his bullets striking his chest, Travis McMichael (the younger McMichael) fired three shots from his shotgun, one hitting his wrist, and the other striking Arbery’s neck. He later died.

It took several months before the government conducted a thorough investigation into the matter. Johnson, the Brunswick Judicial Circuit District attorney, was an important part of this, according to the indictment.

Ex-prosecutor Travis, who was defeated in November 2020’s reelection election, is accused of using her office to show “favor and affection” to Greg McMichael, her ex-employee, during the initial investigation of the case. She then obstructed law enforcement by ordering them to not arrest Travis.

Johnson then appointed George E. Barnhill, Waycross Judicial Circuit District attorney to her place. However, she refused to reveal that Barnhill had been implicated in the shooting. Barnhill told police on the following day that they should not be prosecuted. Also, he had conflicted interests, finally revealing that McMichael’s son was in Johnson’s office with him, and also on the previous prosecution Arbery faced. He remained on the case through April, and only quit at Arbery’s request after she discovered his bias. Barnhill was still under investigation as of September.

It’s likely that Johnson’s and Barnhill’s prosecution malfeasances would have stopped Arbery from facing charges. Barnhill stated that he and his accomplice were “following a suspect in burglary, with strong first-hand probable cause in their neighbourhood, and asking him/telling him to stop.”

That story lost traction when an attorney leaked cellphone footage of the encounter—taken by Bryan—with the clip of Arbery’s final moments going viral. Each of the men was indicted on one count each of malice murder and four counts of felonious murder. Bryan also faces two counts for aggravated assault and false imprisonment.

Johnson and Barnhill were not the only prosecutors who misused their power to the detriment of their oaths. However, they are just two of many people that have been probed for this. Prosecutors are rarely under investigation. The possibility of being charged with criminal offenses is almost unheard. Data on convictions is scanty because there are virtually no records. Clark Neily, the senior vice president of legal studies at Cato Institute told me about Johnson’s first indictment in September. He said that a possible conviction was “in short possible,” and “even a result which appears to be against the laws of the universe”.

Kyle Rittenhouse was the teenager who faced all the charges of murdering and wounding one man during a night filled with civil unrest. Thomas Binger, Kenosha County Assistant district attorney, was given quite a number of demerits throughout the trial. This suggests that Rittenhouse invoked his Miranda rights as a sign of his guilt. He also attempted to present evidence to the jury which the judge already considered inadmissible. These moments seemed to electrify the law-and order right. This misconduct doesn’t just apply to politically charged cases that are the focus of national attention.

This is commonplace thanks to the doctrine of absolute immunity, which provides prosecutors with an immunized shield from civil liability because they are involved in the prosecutions. You can falsify evidence and coerce witnesses. Also, you may knowingly give perjured testimony. A Louisiana prosecutor is able to avoid accountability because he allegedly worked to remove allegations against an assistant penitentiary warden, who was accused in multiple instances of brutally beating his cousin-in law at his Louisiana State Penitentiary residence.

“[The victim’s]This story is especially disturbing because the alleged perpetrator of her crime holds a significant position in our criminal justice systems as an assistant penitentiary warden.” Judge James C. Ho wrote for the U.S. Court of Appeals, 5th Circuit. This does not change the fact that the court is not authorized to hear her case against the district attorney. He declined her help for some reason. So, she wasn’t allowed to sue.

These stories make Rittenhouse’s prosecution seem saintly. Even though Binger was a shrewd prosecutor, his actions were enough to rile many people. These instances do not seem outrageous simply because they are often seen through political lenses. They are outrageous because even the more mundane violations are an affront to basic liberty—only made worse by the fact that such transgressions are routine.