DAs Barnhill and Johnson Must Resign
I graduated from Glynn Academy, a school that is not far from where Ahmaud Arbery was murdered. As a teenager — I ran among the same Oak trees. Breathed the same air. I was greatly saddened when, living in Atlanta — I heard of the recent and horrific murder of a citizen of Glynn. I’ve looked things over here, with care and I am appalled. As State Senate Candidate, it is my view and the view of my campaign that District Attorney Barnhill and Johnson must resign for failing to hold Ahmaud Arbery’s killers accountable.
Let’s be clear. It’s likely the entire thing was a mistake . People playing cops and robbers. Who knows what really happened? What we do know is the murder of A. Arbery was a horrible event. And Atlantans don’t know all of the facts. Perhaps none of us do. But I do know Brunswick . Afair city. Beautiful Oak Trees. Oaks that were felled to become the planks of the great ship, the USS Constitution — a ship whose reputation for strength was so profound she was nicknamed “ Old Ironsides”.
Reading carefully through all the documents, as well as seeing the video — I have come to the uncomfortable conclusion that Barnhill’s and Johnson’s positions threaten the foundation of the law. His written statements seem to posit Arbery a criminal. Arbery is an unarmed jogger. His letter to the Glynn County police states — "It appears that (the two assailant’s )intent was to stop and hold this criminal suspect until law enforcement arrived. Under Georgia law, it is perfectly legal." This criminal suspect? Not. Citizen? No. It is perfectly not legal to drive up to a person and point a gun at them and tell them to stay where they are, or get into a truck, or do anything — because it is illegal to use force against an innocent citizen. If a police officer stops you, then, yes, you stop. You listen carefully, follow directions — give the officer your ID and registration, take your speeding ticket and stop driving like a lunatic in our neighborhood. But the legal principle that Benhill and Johnson are seemingly following — is such that were we to allow men to drive up on us, accuse us of a crime and hold us against our will…we would literally legalize the practice of kidnapping. Barnhill also went on to state that there was no need for arrest and because of Barnhill’s suggestions to police first responders held back their arrest. Now, a district attorney in another county has finally decided to bring the case to a grand jury. This is a dark mark upon Glynn, Our State and Our Nation.
Brunswick is a special place. Even magical. When I close my eyes, see the Oaks. I feel the wind coming off the sea. I often went to the place where Lanier wrote “The Marshes of Glynn”. I remember well the line — of spirit grown to a lordly compass within. Glynn inspired Sidney Lanier to write a great American Epic Poem.
I graduated from Glynn, not far from where Sidney wrote those lines. Glynn Academy — we shall honor — may we never fail — for thy fame shall never perish — red and white all hail. I never want to stand below one of those trees holding someone else together with a pressing a white bandage against red blood — murdered — helping them hold on to dear life because “clearly it is legal”.
Let us set aside the undercurrent of Barnhill’s argument — the demonstrably false idea any random person could ever be considered equal to a police officer. This is simply not the case. First, because officers are born — not made. A peace officer is a man, or woman — who holds the requisite training, and discipline that a career in first response commands. Police officers are people who, when we are jogging down the road — we halt if we are asked to do so. Just as we pull over if we’re caught speeding. We do not do this for random citizens. Georgia should not allow people to impersonate police officers.
And perhaps the most disturbing aspect of all of this is the burden it places upon all Georgians when the office of a District Attorney fails to perform its constitutional duty. I personally don’t want to have to keep going over footage to make sure nobody is gunning my daughter down while she’s running down the street. And I don’t want to see communities turn against their first responders because they see them as marauders. Policing is best when it is a community effort; a collaboration between the trained officer and the alert, aware, and communicative neighbor. This issue was raised in our state not because the District Attorney saw the video footage — but because we saw the footage. So a man is murdered in broad daylight, and there’s a video of it — and the two people who killed him were not arrested. Really?
What do Barnhill and Johnson say? Barnhill was “waiting for evidentiary articles”. He goes on to argue that actions by the assailant may have been justified. Really? It is clear that any justification of any cannot and should not ever be easily conferred. Murder is a very serious crime. Georgia is a state that was the fourth ratifier of the Constitution but we did not rewrite it a few weeks ago so that the fundamental rights of citizens could be so easily mitigated by flimsy laws such as “stand your ground” and “citizen’s arrest”. We should never live in a world where murder can be made official with clever legal argument or by some strange new interpretation of existing law. I am proud to say that my High School Education at Glynn Academy covered the basics , and that based on that analysis — a simple, commonsense argument that due process left a clear, reasonable and simple path for the District Attorney to follow — Barnhill and Johnson were not doing what we paid them to do. In fact, they were doing something radically new and different and it amounted to allowing the voice and vision of a jury and a judicial system to be effectively silenced. Except that someone posted a video, and now we’re involved.
The basic legal truth here, that anyone with a High School education in Civics can see is that any erosion of Ahmaud Arbery’s constitutional rights, is an erosion of all Georgian’s constitutional rights.
The United States Judiciary Act of 1789 was passed at about the time some of the oldest oak trees of Brunswick were first planted . This act provided for the appointment of a person in each judicial district to prosecute federal crimes and to represent the United States in all civil actions to which it was a party. How unlike us that the voice of the internal compass within is diminished by a person who is placed in this position of trust.
A District Attorney that does not fully and completely respect, honor and uphold due process should not doing the job. It is not the office of citizens to arrest other citizens by use of deadly force. Such action can and should only be reserved for our nation’s finest — men and women with training — those who have attained the rank of first responder. Citizens shall not, and can not force other citizens by means of deadly force — to do anything, whatsoever. Period. DA Jackie Johnson and DA George Barnhill then went on to mismanage Arbery’s case — following a dangerous path of questionable judgment. In previous years, Johnson has shown a pattern of mishandling of cases, and what seems to be an inability to fairly prosecute. Barnhill claims the laws that were in play here were self-defense and Georgia’s citizen arrest laws. Barnhill, whom we entrust to seek the truth — then chose to follow yet another splashy, dangerous - media-oriented path when he decided that instead of listening to the will of the people and of the voters of our state — he went on national media and tried to exonerate without trial, jury, or judge — the two men involved in the crime. It is true we are all innocent until proven guilty but we cannot be proven innocent, until we are tried by a jury of our peers. That is for them to decide, not the District Attorney.
Johnny Cash once wrote “ Sure as God made Black and White — What’s done in the dark will be brought to the light.” Let’s face it. None of us know all of the facts. Was this a hate crime? Was it all a horrible mistake? Whatever this was, a person died as a result of it — and it serves to remind all of us due process and innocent until proven guilty are foundations of the law. And so by that same token we cannot ignore or excuse the brazen, unconstitutional view of the law and what appears to be the abuse of power — that we see in the work of DAs Barnhill and Johnson.
Therefore I, as State Senate Candidate — speaking for those who support my candidacy, and campaign — and as a former resident of Glynn — argue that we as citizens of Georgia must hold to standard those who uphold our laws — for in so doing we uphold justice itself.
DA’s Barnhill and Johnson must resign, with immediate effect.