On September 2, former Georgia prosecutor Jackie Johnson was indicted on multiple criminal charges related to the investigation of Ahmaud Arbery’s killing in February of 2020. Johnson has been charged with violation of oath of a public officer and obstruction of a police officer, which together could land the prosecutor up to six years in prison.
These small steps toward justice are now materializing 18 months after Arbery’s tragic shooting death. 25-year-old Arbery was out for a jog when he was suddenly pursued by two armed, white vigilantes. The two men, Gregory and Travis McMichael, profiled Arbery, falsely claiming that he was responsible for recent home invasions. Travis then fatally shot Arbery while neighbor William Bryan filmed the altercation. All three men involved have since been charged with murder.
Immediately following the shooting, Johnson illegally directed Glynn County police officers not to arrest Travis McMichael. She later exhibited excessive “favor and affection” towards him throughout the rest of the investigation, in addition to failing to disclose that Gregory had once worked in her office.
Public outrage over her behavior cost her reelection for the district attorney seat last November. Wanda Cooper-Jones, mother of Ahmaud Arbery, has praised Johnson’s indictment, saying that Johnson ought to serve jail time for orchestrating a cover-up to protect the murderers. The grand jury shared similar sentiments, agreeing that above all Johnson “[failed] to treat Ahmaud Arbery and his family fairly and with dignity.”
Arbery’s murder a few months before the killing of George Floyd helped spark the wave of historic protests across the globe against the ruthless police violence systematically inflicted against Black people. If it were not for this uprising, it is hard to imagine that this crooked prosecutor would have been indicted. The same is true for the conviction of the cop who murdered George Floyd.
Police departments everywhere have long swept racist murders aside until they exit the public consciousness. They could not succeed in such depraved acts without the support of other powerful institutions. Police, prosecutors, judges, and corporate media all work together to uphold one another and their power. With the support of the court system behind them, police are emboldened to murder and lie to the public.
Johnson’s indictment needs to be closely monitored so that a conviction is secured. But the fact that the so-called justice system has been forced to press serious charges against one of their own is a testament to the power of the people in struggle.