As Chauvin trial concludes, Rayshard Brooks’ case drags on

This screen grab taken from body camera video provided by the Atlanta Police Department on June 12, 2020, shows Rayshard Brooks, right, speaking with Officer Garrett Rolfe in the parking lot of a Wendy's restaurant, prior to being fatally shot by Rolfe. (Atlanta Police Department/Zuma Press/TNS)
Caption
This screen grab taken from body camera video provided by the Atlanta Police Department on June 12, 2020, shows Rayshard Brooks, right, speaking with Officer Garrett Rolfe in the parking lot of a Wendy's restaurant, prior to being fatally shot by Rolfe. (Atlanta Police Department/Zuma Press/TNS)

Credit: TNS

Judge will soon decide on a prosecutor

Their names have been intertwined since last June, when Rayshard Brooks, 27 was fatally shot in a downtown Wendy’s parking lot after resisting arrest for a suspected DUI.

Less than three weeks earlier, in Minneapolis, George Floyd, 46, died after police confronted him for allegedly trying to pass a counterfeit $20 bill. For nine minutes and 29 seconds, Officer Derek Chauvin knelt on Floyd’s neck and back. On Tuesday, Chauvin was remanded to state custody after jurors found him guilty of two counts of murder and one count of manslaughter for actions that led to Floyd’s death.

As family members expressed gratitude for the verdict and relief that they will not have to re-live George Floyd’s death again, Brooks’ relatives face a long and uncertain slog. The two Black men have been linked by tragedy, each, according to social justice activists, killed needlessly by overzealous cops. One has been resolved in court. The other doesn’t even have a prosecutor yet.

It’s not simply a question of when ex-Atlanta Police Department Officer Garrett Rolfe will head to trial. Rolfe, charged with murder, fired three shots at a fleeing Brooks after the suspected drunk driver fought with him and another officer. That officer, Devin Brosnan, was charged with aggravated assault by former Fulton County District Attorney Paul Howard.

Howard’s handling of the case, currently under state investigation, led the longtime DA’s successor, Fani Willis, to seek recusal in January, saying her prosecutorial staff had been compromised by Howard’s actions.

Georgia Attorney General Chris Carr denied Willis’ request, saying he believed her office could carry out a fair prosecution of the officers. Willis asked him to reconsider but Carr held firm, telling her the “matters are personal to your predecessor” and “do not pertain to your office.”.

Now it’s up to Fulton County Superior Court Chief Judge Christopher Brasher to decide this jurisdictional squabble, now in its fourth month. In an order signed earlier this month, Brasher ordered Willis to produce, in private, evidence of a conflict of interest. He’ll then rule whether her office should be disqualified.

But that won’t solve everything. Willis could decide to reduce the charges or drop them altogether. She has said previously that Howard’s rush to bring charges will ultimately benefit the defense.

Those options would also be available to a new prosecutor, if one is assigned.

“With no prosecutor to handle the case, it might never be resolved,” Rolfe’s attorney, Noah Pines, wrote in a motion to dismiss.

Pines also argued that the turf war between Willis and Carr is unfair to his client because of the “restrictive conditions” of his bond. Rolfe must wear an ankle monitor and abide by a court-imposed curfew.

The delays have also taken a toll on Brooks’ family, said one their attorneys, Justin Miller.

“You think these police are getting prosecuted and it doesn’t start,” he said. “They’re in jail and they’re out of jail. What the family needs, and wants, is a road to closure.”

THE STORY SO FAR

Last June, former APD officer Garrett Rolfe was charged with felony murder and several counts of aggravated assault and violating his oath for his role in the death of Rayshard Brooks, 27. Officer Devin Brosnan was charged with aggravated assault and violating his oath. Rolfe was freed on $500,000 bond.

Georgia Attorney General Chris Carr has rejected Fulton County DA Fani Willis’ request to recuse her office. She cites a conflict of interest created by her predecessor, Paul Howard, in handling the investigation. A judge has given Willis until May 3 to present, in private, evidence that proves the conflict is real.

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