An open letter was written and posted Sunday through Jay-Z’s company Roc Nation about the case of Ahmaud Arbery. It says that District Attorney Tom Durden should recuse himself and demands the arrest of a third man, the two accused men’s uncharged neighbor in Arbery’s slaying who shot the cellphone video of the killing. The letter was posted to Roc Nation’s Instagram account and published as a full-page ad in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution on Sunday, May 10, and signed by some of the company’s artists. By the next day the case had been reassigned to a new prosecutor.
Arbery was a 25-year-old unarmed Black man who was shot and killed in the South Georgia town of Brunswick on Feb. 23 while he was jogging. Two white men, father and son Gregory McMichael and Travis McMichael, who were armed as they pursued Arbery through the neighborhood in a pickup before confronting him in the fatal encounter, weren’t charged or arrested for the killing until last week, days after video footage of the shooting was released.
The letter says the arrests are a move in the right direction, but it’s only the first step in Arbery’s family getting justice.
“By now, we’ve all seen the crime’s disturbing video, so the facts here are not in doubt,” the letter read, which is addressed to state officials. “He was unarmed and innocent and the victim of a hate crime.”
“Which is why we call upon you today, as official leaders of the Great State of Georgia and with the entire world watching to ensure a fair trial is conducted as that can only lead to the appropriate felony convictions of both McMichaels,” it continued. “We also implore you to charge William Bryan as an armed accomplice to the crime.”
The letter also says that because Gregory McMichael is a former police officer, Durden being involved in the case is a huge conflict of interest. Durden, the district attorney in a county some 60 miles from Brunswick, was a special prosecutor appointed to the case after the Arbery family protested that Gregory McMichael had ties to the previous DA that presented a conflict of interest. The letter did not specify what conflicts Durden might have had or what kind of prosecutor would be less conflicted in prosecuting a former cop.
“If anybody saw that horrifying video of his killing, it is heartbreaking, unbelievably unacceptable and inhumane,” said Keys in a statement to The Associated Press. “No human being should be murdered and not receive justice. I have Black sons and they should be able to go on a jog or anywhere they want without the risk of being killed.”
On Monday, Georgia Attorney General Chris Carr named Joyette Holmes as the new prosecutor in the case, a Black woman who’s the district attorney in the Atlanta suburb of Cobb County.
“Today, our office formally appointed District Attorney Joyette M. Holmes of the Cobb County Judicial Circuit to lead the prosecution,” said Carr in a statement. “District Attorney Holmes is a respected attorney with experience, both as a lawyer and a judge, and the Cobb County District Attorney’s office has the resources, personnel and experience to lead this prosecution and ensure justice is done.”