Ga. Attorney General requests DOJ to handle Arbery case, releases timeline of case changing hands and delayed arrests

Ahmaud Arbery case: Travis and Greg McMichael face nine charges, including felony murder

Update, May 10, 7 p.m.: Georgia Attorney General Chris Carr announced a formal request to the U.S. Department of Justice to investigate the handling of the Ahmaud Arbery case Sunday.

The announcement came one day after he said he would look into “how the Ahmaud Arbery case was handled from the outset.”

The request to DOJ includes the investigation of the communication 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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In a statement released by Carr’s office, a timeline of the shuffling of the Arbery case is outlined.

February 27, 2020

Carr’s office receives a request from the Brunswick district attorney Jackie Johnson’s office to appoint another prosecutor in the case, four days after Arbery was shot and killed while jogging in the Satilla Shores neighborhood of Brunswick. Carr’s Office appoints district attorney for the Waycross Judicial Circuit George Barnhill to take over as prosecutor on the case the same day.

“At the time of the request by the Brunswick Circuit District Attorney and acceptance by the Waycross Circuit District Attorney, neither revealed to the Office of the Attorney General that the Waycross Circuit District Attorney had already taken a role in the case in reviewing evidence and advising the Glynn County Police Department regarding whether to make arrests in the case,” the statement says.

April 2, 2020

Barnhill sends a letter to the Glynn County Police Department containing his opinion that no arrests needed to be made in the case.

In the letter, he says he believed Gregory McMichael and his son, Travis McMichael, were trying to stop and hold Arbery until police officers arrived. He says, “It appears their intent was to stop and hold this criminal suspect until law enforcement arrived.”

Barnhill also says the father, son and William Bryan, the man in the car recording the shooting, were chasing Arbery after they say he committed a crime. Moments later, there was a struggle and Arbery was shot three times.

Barnhill says the fight was over the gun. “Given the fact Arbery initiated the fight, at the point Arbery grabbed the shotgun, under Georgia Law, McMichael was allowed to use deadly force to protect himself.”

At the end of the letter, Barnhill says, “Arbery’s mental health and prior convictions help explain his apparent aggressive nature and his possible thought pattern to attack an armed man.”

April 7, 2020

Carr’s office receives a request from the Barnhill, the DA for the Waycross Judicial Circuit to appoint another prosecutor for the Arbery case. The request came 10 weeks and one day after the Waycross Judicial Circuit was appointed to take over the case.

"In that request, the Waycross Circuit District Attorney again did not inform the Office of the Attorney General of his prior involvement in the case before his appointment and specifically described to the Office of the Attorney General the actions that he took ‘upon taking the case,’” the statement says.

In Barnhill’s request, he says that he and Brunswick DA Jackie Johnson learned “as of about ‘3-4 weeks ago’” that Barnhill’s son, who is a prosecutor that works for Johnson’s office, previously handled prosecution on a prior case involving Ahmaud Arbery, and that “one of the defendants in this case had also served as an investigator on the same prosecution.”

The April 7 request did not include why 71 days passed between Barnhill’s office being appointed to handle the case and the request for another office to take over the case. The request also did not include that Barnhill gave the Glynn County Police Department a letter that no arrests should be made in the case on April 2. In the letter, Barnhill also confirmed having formed “an initial opinion the day after the shooting,” according to the Ga. attorney general.

April 13, 2020

The Ga. Attorney General’s Office appoints Atlanta District Attorney Tom Durden to take over the case.

May 5, 2020

Durden requests the Georgia Bureau of Investigation to investigate the death of Ahmaud Arbery.

May 6, 2020

GBI starts investigating the Arbery case.

Video emerges of the confrontation between Ahmaud Arbery and Gregory and Travis McMichael that led to Arbery’s death.

May 7, 2020

Gregory McMichael and Travis McMichael are arrested and charged with aggravated assault and murder for the death of Ahmaud Arbery.

Original story, May 9: Georgia Attorney General Chris Carr tweeted Saturday that he will be investigating how the Ahmaud Arbery case was “handled from the outset.”

The case has garnered national attention after video surfaced of the shooting death of Arbery two months after the incident. No arrests were made until Friday, May 8.

Gregory McMichael, one of the men arrested for Arbery’s death, used to be an investigator for the Brunswick Judicial Circuit district attorney’s office. His son, Travis McMichael, was also arrested.

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