“Anyone with warm blood running through their veins, who saw the video and knew the connection around what happened, knew it was wrong,” said Mr. King.
The case resounded from the beginning of painful themes in the Deep South. The murder of a black man by white men with weapons, presented to a jury that included only one black person. The rest were white. The jury had been put in place over the protests of Ms. Dunikoski, who had unsuccessfully tried to prevent potential black juries from being removed during the selection process by the defense attorneys. It was also a painful moment for Glynn County, a majority-white county that continues to be marked by the legacy of segregation.
Its county seat, Brunswick, had decades ago garnered recognition for the way its black and white leaders worked together to integrate schools and public facilities. But the selection of such a racistly skewed jury had sparked anger and distrust 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 richest people in the country.
Prior to the trial, Ms. Dunikoski, 54, who declined to be interviewed, largely spent his career in the Atlanta metropolitan area and established a reputation as a hardline prosecutor who goes 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 came to call her Aunt Linda.
The case took a twisted path before landing in Mrs Dunikowski’s lap. Two local district attorneys’ offices handled the case initially, but both eventually withdrew from it, citing conflicts of interest; one of the former prosecutors, Jackie Johnson, has been indicted for his handling of the case. It was in the hands of a third DA’s office before it was passed on to the more resourceful Cobb County, where Mrs Dunikoski has worked since 2019.
Before coming to the Cobb County office, Ms. Dunikoski spent more than 17 years as a prosecutor in Fulton County, where one of her highest-profile cases was the trial of a group of teachers from the Atlanta Public Schools, who in 2015 were found guilty of relaxation. and other fees for changing students’ standardized test scores. Critics said the prosecution had offered a group of mostly black educators as scapegoats for a school district that had much deeper systemic problems.
In 2009, Ms. Dunikoski, according to The Associated Press, jailed by a judge for failing to pay a $ 100 fine after the judge quoted her for contempt. The chief county prosecutor at the time was allegedly involved in a scuffle with the judge, claiming he had wrongfully damaged the reputation of an honest lawyer.