AdvertisementHow a Prosecutor Addressed a Mostly White Jury and Won a Conviction...

How a Prosecutor Addressed a Mostly White Jury and Won a Conviction in the Arbery Case

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

The issue, from the start, has echoed agonizing themes in the Deep South. The murder of a black man by white men with guns, was presented to a jury that included a single black person. The rest were white. The jury was set up against the backdrop of protests from Ms. Donikowski, who unsuccessfully tried to block potential black jurors during the selection process by defense attorneys. It was also a painful moment for Glenn County, a white-majority county that still has a legacy of segregation.

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

Before the trial, Ms. Donikowski, 54, who declined to be interviewed, had largely spent her career in the Atlanta metropolitan area, where she had built a reputation as a tough prosecutor who pursued killers, gang members and sex offenders. By the end of the trial, she had won the Arbery family’s trust so deeply that they had come to call her Aunt Linda.

The case took a winding path before landing on Mrs. Donikovsky’s lap. Two local prosecutor’s offices initially dealt with the case, but both eventually extricated themselves from the case citing conflicts of interest; One of the former prosecutors, Jackie Johnson, has been criminally indicted for her handling of the case. It was in the hands of a third DA before being relocated to the more resource-rich Cobb County, where Ms. Dunikoski has worked since 2019.

Prior to joining the Cobb County office, Ms. Donikowski had spent more than 17 years as a Fulton County District Attorney, where one high-profile case was the trial of a group of Atlanta public school teachers convicted in 2015 of racketeering. and other fees to change students’ standardized test scores. Critics said prosecutors offered a group of mostly black teachers to be scapegoats for a school district with much deeper systemic problems.

In 2009, according to the Associated Press, Ms. Donikowski was jailed by a judge for failing to pay a $100 fine after a judge cited her for contempt. Reportedly, the district attorney at the time engaged in a screaming match with the judge, arguing that he had unfairly damaged the reputation of an honest attorney.

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