How a Prosecutor Sued a Predominately White Jury and Won a Conviction in the Arbery Case

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“Anyone with warm blood through their veins who witnessed the video and knew the context of what happened knew it was wrong,” King said.

The case echoed painful themes in the Deep South from the start. The murder of a black man by white men with guns, presented to a jury with only one black. The rest were white. The jury was set up because of the protests by Ms. Dunikoski, who had unsuccessfully tried to prevent potential black jurors from being removed by defense attorneys during the selection process. It was also a painful moment for Glynn County, a predominantly white county that largely voted Donald Trump in 2020 and continues to be characterized by its legacy of segregation.

The county seat, Brunswick, had earned praise decades ago for the way its black and white leaders worked together to integrate schools and public facilities. But the selection of such a racially one-sided jury had sparked anger and mistrust in a county where more than one in four residents is black. Neighboring Brunswick are four barrier islands known as the Golden Isles, a popular tourist destination that is also home to some of the wealthiest people in the country.

Before the trial, Ms. Dunikoski, who is 54 and declined to be interviewed, had spent much of her career in the Atlanta metropolitan area, where she had built a reputation as a hard-nosed prosecutor who went after murderers, gang members and sex offenders. By the end of the trial, she had won the trust of the Arbery family so deeply that they named her Aunt Linda.

The case took a tortuous route before landing on Ms Dunikowski’s lap. Two local prosecutors took the case to begin with, but both eventually distanced themselves from it, citing conflicts of interest; one of the former prosecutors, Jackie Johnson, has been charged with criminal charges for her handling of the case. It was in the hands of a third district attorney before being turned over to more resource-rich Cobb County, where Ms. Dunikoski has worked since 2019.

Before joining the Cobb County office, Ms. Dunikoski had spent more than 17 years as a district attorney in Fulton County, where one of her most notable cases was the trial of a group of Atlanta Public Schools teachers found guilty in 2015. extortion and other charges for changing students’ standardized test scores. Critics said the prosecutors had offered a group of mostly black educators as scapegoats for a school district that had much deeper systemic problems.

According to The Associated Press, Ms Dunikoski was jailed by a judge in 2009 for failing to pay a $100 fine after the judge subpoenaed her for contempt. The then chief prosecutor reportedly had a brawl with the judge, arguing that he had unjustly damaged the reputation of an honest lawyer.

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