AJC Watchdog: First Alert

Keeping watch on those who hold the public trust and money

Caroline Small group says prosecutor should remove herself from police shooting case

A group seeking a new investigation in the Caroline Small police shooting on Wednesday said Brunswick District Attorney Jackie Johnson should remove herself from the case over conflicts of interest.

The comment by the Justice for Caroline Small group comes in the wake of an analysis by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that showed Johnson recused herself from 16 other cases where there were concerns over conflicts or possible conflicts in her office.

Most of the cases where Johnson offered a reason for removing her office from the case involved some personal or professional link to someone in her office.

"In those cases that you reported upon she was so careful to avoid the appearance of impropriety," said Robert Apgar, a leader with the group of Small's mother and her friends seeking justice. "It makes it even more egregious to us that she did not recuse herself in Caroline's case."

In Georgia, local DA's are responsible for recognizing when there is a conflict or possible conflict. They generally must request the state attorney general's office appoint an outside prosecutor.

A Glynn County grand jury in 2011 cleared the two officers who shot Small's vehicle eight times. An AJC investigation last year revealed how Johnson took several highly unusual moves in the Small case that raised questions about her independence and how her actions helped clear the officers.

She fired the former prosecutor who was handling the case and expressed concerns that his actions in the case damaged her office's relationship with the Glynn County Police Department whose officers shot Small.

The justice group formed after that story and have appealed to Gov. Nathan Deal and Attorney General Sam Olens to have the case re-opened.

"Our goal is a full and fair investigation and hearing and it would be necessary to have a special prosecutor to achieve that," Apgar said.



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About the Author

Brad Schrade is a Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter on the AJC’s investigative team.