Over the last few weeks, there has been a public outcry over D.A. Jackie Johnson’s handling of the Ahmaud Arbery shooting.
More recently, the House Representative from St. Simons Island, Rep. Jeff Jones, sent a letter to Governor Kemp, calling for Jackie Johnson’s removal from office. Reports of Rep. Jones’s letter have been circulating for days; however, in true Baxley Informer fashion, we are providing a copy for you to see for yourself.
Rep. Jones’s assertion that D.A. Jackie Johnson exhibited “years of gross mismanagement” is a harsh criticism, but is it true? And furthermore, is it grounds for dismissal?
The Georgia laws governing district attorneys lack substance. Short of breaking the law, ethics violations, or becoming medically or mentally unfit to perform their duties, under Ga Code, a district attorney has free-reign to “mismanage” all they want.
If nothing can be done about D.A. Jackie Johnson’s “mismanagement,” then what grounds would Governor Kemp have for removing Jackie Johnson from office?
1. Violation of Oath Of Office:
Every time that Jackie Johnson didn’t legally recuse herself when there was a conflict of interest, she may have been in violation of her oath of office. Per GA Code 16-10-1, any public officer who violates their oath of office shall be punished by imprisonment of one to five years.
A violation of oath of office would be grounds for Jackie’s removal, and a merciful one at that. If removed from office, the wheels of justice could be slowed until the public forgot Jackie Johnson’s alleged violations. At that point, her violations could be ignored, and she’d escape the possibility of facing prison time.
2. Ethics Violations:
If ethics violations are found, D.A. Jackie Johnson could be disbarred. She would lose her ability to practice law in Georgia, and the state would appoint someone to take her place.
Ethics violations can be filed by the public with the Ga Bar Association by clicking here.
3. Prosecutorial Misconduct:
Actions the courts have labeled prosecutorial misconduct include, but are not limited to:
a. Bringing criminal charges in bad faith without realistic hope of winning a conviction.
A possible example of this can be seen in an article on www.allongeorgia.com by clicking here. Allongeorgia.com alleges that D.A. Jackie Johnson was prosecuting police officers for non-criminal offenses. To put this in perspective, it would be like attempting to send a teacher to prison for yelling at a student who wouldn't turn off their phone. While yelling at a student may be against school policy, it's not a violation of the law.
b. Knowingly presenting false witness testimony or other false evidence to the court or grand jury.
The Atlanta-Journal Constitution wrote a detailed story involving one of Jackie Johnson's first cases as district attorney. According to the AJC, Jackie allowed a "grossly inaccurate" animated re-enactment of the crime to be shown to the Grand Jury. You can read the entire article by clicking here.
c. Making statements to the media that prejudice the jury pool.
d. Improper plea-bargaining.
e. Expressing a personal opinion about the guilt of the defendant.
4. Unprofessional Conduct:
Earlier this year, Attorney General Chris Carr requested that the GBI investigate Jackie Johnson’s office for possible violations of Ga Code 45-11-4 for Unprofessional Conduct in their handling of the Amaud Arbery shooting.
If Jackie Johnson did not properly recuse herself, she may be in violation of Ga Code 45-11-4. The penalty for this violation is a misdemeanor. Upon conviction, Ga Code states that the accused shall be removed from office.
Over her ten year reign, news sites have documented more than one occasion where Jackie failed to recuse herself when she had a conflict of interest.
Now that the public is aware of Jackie’s actions, what will happen if Governor Kemp decides to let Jackie Johnson keep her district attorney position?
Public trust is already at an all-time low. Unless Jackie Johnson’s innocence is proven beyond a doubt, it’s unlikely the public will trust any case she puts her hands on. The justice system will be thrown into upheaval—and that’s just the issue with future cases.
Jackie Johnson’s problem with past criminal convictions is this—the public already questions her ethics because she didn’t appear to follow protocol in the Ahmaud Arbery and Cory Sasser cases. Because this has come to light, any previous criminal case she’s touched may be called into question. If any misconduct is found, it could result in massive waves of appeals and mistrials.
The Brunswick Judicial Circuit has a nasty mess to clean up. Governor Kemp’s decision and the result of the ongoing investigations could mean the difference between the community’s tentative step toward healing, or their already faltering faith in the justice system becoming non-existent.