Glynn County District Attorney Jackie Johnson needs to resign from her office and the State Bar of Georgia needs to disbar her. I do not say these things lightly.
Before explaining why, I want it to be very clear that I work with hundreds of Georgia prosecutors who honorably carry out their ethical and professional duties. We do not always agree as to what is a fair outcome in a case, and that is perfectly fine and ordinary. Most of the time, the criminal justice system eventually gets it right.
Then, we have people like Glynn District Attorney Jackie Johnson (Brunswick Georgia) and Chief Assistant District Attorney John B. Johnson III. Both are a national embarrassment.
As a Georgia Criminal Defense Attorney, my ethical obligation is to zealously represent my client. As prosecutors they have a legal and ethical obligation to seek justice. We have seen in recent cases that Jackie Johnson's office is focused on winning and legal maneuvering, rather than justice. As I have stated in another article, she has lost her way or never had it in the first place.
Case in Point, The State of Georgia vs. Dennis Perry:
Mr. Perry had been in prison for twenty years. He has also proclaimed his innocence. To avoid the death penalty, he agreed to waive his appellate rights. New DNA evidence has been discovered that calls into question his guilt. What should a prosecutor do?
Well, a normal human being who happens to also be a prosecutor would want to make 100% sure that a person they have sent to prison (for life) was actually guilty of the crime. The Glynn County District Attorney and Chief Assistant District Attorney John B. Johnson III are not normal human beings. They fought, and thankfully lost, against Mr. Perry's ability to have these claims heard in court. Recently, a judge threw out Mr. Perry's conviction and released him on his own recognizance because the remaining evidence against him was flimsy at best.
ADA John B. Johnson III's argument against Mr. Perry was that since there was an agreement not to appeal, the new evidence should not be heard. (please read that twice). He focused on the legal agreement, not whether Mr. Perry might have been wrongly convicted. Brunswick District Attorney Jackie Johnson backed up her employee. Thankfully, a judge disagreed.
Why Did the Judge Rule for the Defense?
The reason is clear. The legal system has rules and procedures. However, those rules are designed to make sure there is a just outcome. They are not designed so that a potentially innocent person dies in prison. In fairness to the Brunswick DA, they had sent the case to the GBI for further investigation and were awaiting a report. However, why should a person sit in prison waiting on a new investigation and waiting on whether Jackie Johnson and John B. Johnson III make their own decision as to his guilt?
Why on Earth Should the People of Georgia Trust District Attorney Jackie Johnson's Office?
According to an excellent article in the AJC, Jackie Johnson's office is very familiar with violating the rights of the accused, and ADA John B. Johnson III seems to be right in the middle of most of the misconduct. He has been involved in several cases that have been reversed because exculpatory evidence has not been turned over to the defense.
Mr. Johnson has prosecuted for more than 40 years and has been quoted as saying he has been “directed by God to try cases and send criminals to prison.” His quote borders on sociopathic. Did God tell him to withhold evidence in cases? Did God tell him to fight the release of a potentially innocent person? Did God tell him that his role as a prosecutor was to win cases at all costs versus to seek justice and play by the rules? I will leave it to the reader to determine God's position in those matters, but for me, I just don't think so. Ironically, he took an oath before God to seek justice.
How Do Prosecutor's Like Jackie Johnson and Chief Assistant District Attorney John B. Johnson III Lose Their Way?
When the focus of a prosecutor is to win their cases, they have lost their way. When in the courtroom, attorneys get competitive. We want to win our cases. We want to be respected by others and known to be experts in our craft. As stated above, almost all the prosecutors I deal with, are completely professional and are able to balance out that competitive adrenaline with a full course of ethics and justice.
I remember when I was a young prosecutor in the Enotah Judicial Circuit, I had the competitive fire. I wanted to win. I once sought the advice of an older prosecutor about a case where it appeared the defendant was innocent. I was told that it was for the defense to bring that out. I strongly disagreed. The case was ultimately dismissed.
The mentality that the justice system is merely adversarial is a very old school and antiquated point of view. It has no place in modern society. My expectation of any Georgia attorney is to honor our obligation to the citizens of Georgia and do honor to our profession.
District Attorney Jackie Johnson and Chief Assistant District Attorney John B. Johnson III Need to Be Disbarred:
There is no supervisory body that regulates prosecutors. There are only two checks and balances, the State Bar or Georgia and the voters. This mentality of winning at all costs, withholding evidence from the defense, and seeking convictions rather than justice is immoral and unethical. We do not need attorneys like this in Georgia. As a Georgia Criminal Defense Lawyer, I expect more from people in positions of power. The Brunswick District Attorney's Office is a National Embarrassment. It is time to clean house. If the State Bar of Georgia will not do so, then hopefully the voters will.