District Attorney, Jackie Johnson was one of the first people Georgia police called in February to help the investigation into the death of Ahmaud Arbery, a Black jogger chased and fatally shot by a White former police officer and his son in Brunswick, Ga. Johnson had a problem: She knew one of the suspects and would have to recuse herself. It took Johnson three days to report her conflict of interest, and her conduct in the meantime led to widespread criticism, an ongoing state investigation into her actions, and an independent challenger filing to oppose the Republican prosecutor. On Tuesday, voters ousted Johnson, electing former prosecutor Keith Higgins by 5,000 votes after a campaign that hinged on the accountability of the district attorney in police declining to charge Arbery’s killers for months, the Washington Post reports.
Arbery, 25, was fatally shot on Feb. 23 while jogging in Brunswick. Gregory McMichael, and his son Travis McMichael claimed that they pursued him believing he was behind several break-ins, and said Travis McMichael shot Arbery when the jogger tried to take his gun. Johnson knew Gregory McMichael because he had worked for years as an investigator in the DA’s office until 2019. By the time Johnson called Georgia Attorney General Chris Carr, who would choose a replacement, Johnson had already contacted a nearby prosecutor to take the case. That prosecutor decided the McMichaels did not commit a crime and then recused himself from the case because his son had worked with Gregory McMichael. Eventually, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation took the case and charged the McMichaels. District attorneys are rarely ousted, but a wave of killings of Black people throughout the nation prompted an unusual movement for change in the five conservative counties Johnson represented