Lead prosecutor in Arbery case leaving Cobb County DA’s office

Jesse Evans, the lead prosecutor in the Ahmaud Arbery murder case, is leaving the Cobb County district attorney’s office and will no longer be a member of the Arbery prosecution team.

The new lead prosecutor will be Linda Dunikoski, who has been working on the case with Evans, Cobb District Attorney Flynn Broady said in a statement. “I have complete confidence in her abilities,” he said.

Evans, a skilled trial lawyer, handled a number of high-profile cases in Cobb. The most sensational was against Justin Ross Harris, who was convicted in 2016 for intentionally leaving his 22-month-old son, Cooper, in the family’s sweltering SUV to die.

The Cobb DA’s office got the Arbery case after DAs in the Brunswick and Waycross judicial circuits recused themselves. Arbery, 25, was shot and killed on Feb. 23, 2020, just outside of Brunswick. Three men — Travis McMichael, his father Greg McMichael, and Roddie Bryan — stand charged with Arbery’s murder.

After seeing Arbery run down the street, Greg McMichael called for his son inside their house and the two men armed themselves and got into Travis McMichael’s pickup truck. As they chased the unarmed Arbery, Bryan joined in the chase. After Arbery was hemmed in, he lunged at Travis McMichael, who fatally shot Arbery with three shotgun blasts.

A trial date has not yet been set.

Last year, Evans got the murder charges to go forward during a sensational probable cause hearing. Later, he convinced trial judge Timothy Walmsley to deny bond to the McMichaels and Bryan.

Evans, who could not be reached for comment, “has been an invaluable member of the Cobb DA’s team for many years,” Broady said.

Dunikoski joined the Cobb DA’s office in 2019 after serving more than 17 years as a Fulton County prosecutor.

In Fulton, Dunikoski prosecuted murder cases, gang cases and crimes against women and children. She also helped prosecute the massive case involving the Atlanta Public Schools test-cheating scandal. In 2013, she was named the office’s prosecutor of the year after taking nine cases to trial and obtaining guilty verdicts in all of them.

“She’s tried a number of high-profile cases,” Marietta criminal defense lawyer Ashleigh Merchant said. “She definitely has enough experience to handle the Arbery case. She knows what she’s doing.”