A group of U.S. district attorneys slammed a Georgia prosecutor, who recused himself from the Ahmaud Arbery case, after telling cops the killing of the unarmed black runner was “justifiable homicide.”
The National District Attorneys Association issued a statement over the weekend blasting George Barnhill, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported.
The group said it was concerned Barnhill’s actions could prevent a “just outcome” from the case.
The attorneys pointed out statements Barnhill made in an April 3 letter that exonerated Gregory McMichael, 64, and his son Travis, 34, saying they acted in self-defense. He wrote the letter after he had concluded he had a conflict of interest. He didn't officially recuse himself for several days after he stated his opinion.
“We must strongly disagree with District Attorney George Barnhill’s decision to share his opinion of whether Greg and Travis McMichael should be arrested after he decided to recuse himself from the case,” the association said. “At that point, his involvement in the case should have ceased. Instead District Attorney Barnhill wrote a letter, which has now become public, in which he offered a gratuitous and detailed opinion regarding the hurdles to any prosecution of the individuals involved in the shooting of Mr. Arbery."
The association has about 5,500 members, which represents two-thirds of state and local prosecutors’ offices.
They said Barnhill’s letter could influence jurors and make another prosecutor’s job harder.
“No prosecutor should inject his or her opinion into a pending case to the point where she or he becomes a potential witness and risks compromising the just outcome of a case,” the association said.
Barnhill told police after the fatal Feb. 23 shooting that there was insufficient evidence to charge the McMichaels, according to the Glynn County Police Department.
Video of the incident shows the McMichaels confronting Arbery and shooting him.
The Brunswick News published the police department’s statement on Saturday.
“Detectives met with DA George Barnhill Sr. of the Waycross Judicial Circuit the following day and reviewed their findings with him,” according to the statement. “DA Barnhill Sr., advised the detectives before noon on Feb. 24, that the act was justifiable homicide and for detectives to continue their investigation and provide him with lab reports and any additional information.”
Barnhill withdrew from the investigation several days after he wrote the April 3 letter because his son is a prosecutor in the Brunswick DA’s Office, where Gregory McMichael previously worked as an investigator.
Barnhill did not recuse himself until after he reviewed Arbery’s autopsy report and then wrote a letter to police stating the McMichaels should not be charged, the report said.
After a two-day investigation, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation charged both men with felony murder and aggravated assault on Thursday.
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