A lawyer representing the former Atlanta police officer charged in the alleged murder of Rayshard Brooks has requested the prosecutor on the case be recused, citing “ethically inappropriate” conduct, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution (AJC) reported Monday.
The motion, filed by lawyer Noah Pines, claims that Fulton County District Attorney Paul Howard “has systematically sought to deprive Garrett Rolfe of a fair trial and impartial jury since the day he announced his decision to arrest Garrett Rolfe,” the newspaper reported.
Rolfe shot and killed Rayshard Brooks on June 12 at a fast food parking lot where Brooks was reportedly asleep in his vehicle in a drive-through lane.
Video of the incident appears to show Brooks fleeing from police after allegedly attempting to steal a taser from one of the officers when the shots were fired.
Rolfe was charged on June 17 with 11 counts, including felony murder and five counts of aggravated assault.
Rolfe, who was fired after the shooting, was granted bond on June 30.
Pines also stated that Howard would be a necessary witness for the defence, which plans to question the DA on public statements he made, which they claim are contradictory.
Howard said publicly that Brooks posed “no threat” to officers after allegedly stealing a stun gun. The motion claims that Howard previously said a taser is a “deadly weapon” some 10 days previous, the newspaper reported.
Howard’s office was not immediately available for Al Jazeera’s request for comment on Tuesday.
A statement attributed to Howard in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reads: “When the motion is assigned to a Superior Court Judge with appropriate jurisdiction, the Fulton County District Attorney’s Office will respond at that time.”
Howard, who has held office for six terms, faces a tough primary challenge this election season after a three-way vote in the June 9 polls caused a runoff between him and Fani Willis, a former chief deputy prosecutor.
Howard received 36 percent of the vote, trailing Willis’s roughly 42 percent. A third challenger, Christian Wise Smith, another deputy prosecutor, garnered about 23 percent of the vote in the June polls.
Smith has endorsed Howard in his quest for a seventh term. Willis had out-fundraised Howard as of June, according to the AJC, but Howard has cast her as an ally of the police union as the country increasingly calls for comprehensive police reform.
Howard faces challenges from both sides of the aisle. Republican Senate hopeful and current Representative Doug Collins has criticised Howard’s handling of the Brooks case.
Collins wrote a letter (PDF) to US Attorney General William Barr, dated July 8, that asked the US Justice Department to investigate Howard.
“I ask that you engage any and all Department of Justice resources you consider appropriate to ensure that these officers are treated fairly under the law, and are not subject to abrogation of their right to be treated fairly under the law simply because they are law enforcement officers,” Collins wrote.
Howard has faced further controversies, including allegations of violations on financial disclosures from the state ethics commission.
The Georgia Bureau of Investigation is currently investigating the use of a nonprofit to allegedly funnel roughly $140,000 to supplement his salary.
Howard has previously stated that he expects to cleared of any wrongdoing.