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Georgia prosecutor kicked out of office after claims she bungled Ahmaud Arbery murder case

A Georgia prosecutor who received criticism for her handling of several high-profile cases — including the February 23 murder of Ahmaud Arbery — was voted out of office Tuesday.

Republican Jackie Johnson lost her reelection bid for Brunswick Judicial Circuit District Attorney to independent candidate Keith Higgins. Higgins received 52.8 percent of the more than 86,000 votes cast, according to reports.

Appointed in 2010, Johnson was accused of saying it wasn’t necessary to arrest father and son Gregory McMichael, 64, and Travis McMichael, 34, for Arbery’s murder. Johnson’s alleged comments possibly influenced Glynn County police to hold off on arresting the pair, according to WJXT.

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William Bryan Jr., 50, reportedly filmed Travis McMichael, 34, and his father, Gregory McMichael, 64, fatally shooting Arbery, 25, on February 23 as he jogged in Brunswick.

Bryan claimed he was solely a witness but authorities alleged he used his vehicle to confine and detain Arbery in the minutes leading up to his murder.

Gregory McMichael allegedly said that Arbery resembled a suspect in a series of recent burglaries in the Satilla Shores neighborhood. However, police said the only recent break-in was on January 1, when a 9mm pistol was reportedly stolen from an unlocked truck outside the McMichaels’ home.

This photo combo of images taken Thursday, May 7, 2020, and provided by the Glynn County Detention Center, in Georgia, show Gregory McMichael, left, and his son Travis McMichael. The two have been charged with murder in the February shooting death of Ahmaud Arbery, whom they had pursued in a truck after spotting him running in their neighborhood. (Glynn County Detention Center via AP)

The Georgia Bureau arrested Gregory and Travis McMichael in May, two days after a video depicting Arbery’s death went viral.

Johnson eventually recused herself from the Arbery case. The second prosecutor, George Barnhill, Barnhill also declined to prosecute.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported that Barnhill was ultimately removed from the case after revealing that his son, an assistant district attorney for Johnson, and Gregory McMichael, a former police detective, both helped to prosecute Arbery in a previous case.

Reports indicated that even before his official involvement in Arbery’s case, Barnhill instructed Glynn County police not to arrest the McMichaels.

Bryan and the McMichaels have pleaded not guilty to malice and felony murder in connection with Arbery’s death. They remain jailed without bond.

WFOX and WJAX noted that Johnson also received flack for declining to prosecute two Glynn County officers who fatally shot Carolyn Small in 2010.

Small, a mother of two, reportedly led police on a low-speed chase in Brunswick. After trapping her vehicle, Robert Sasser and Michael Simpson fired eight shots into Small’s windshield, killing her.

Simpson died of brain cancer in 2016. Sasser was promoted to lieutenant in 2016 — the same year he shot his estranged wife and her boyfriend before turning the gun on himself.

Higgins takes office in January.

Read previous coverage of the Ahmaud Arbery case here. 

For the latest true crime and justice news, subscribe to the ‘Crime Stories with Nancy Grace’ podcast. Listen to a previous episode on the Arbery case.

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[Featured image: Jackie Johnson/Glynn County; Ahmaud Arbery/Handout]