VALDOSTA, Ga. (AP) — Attorneys say a Georgia Superior Court judge told them he wants to know what federal authorities discover before deciding whether to order a coroner’s inquest into the death of a Valdosta teenager found inside a rolled-up wrestling mat at school.
Benjamin Crump, attorney for the family of 17-year-old Kendrick Johnson, and Jim Elliott, lawyer for the Lowndes County coroner, say Judge Harry J. Altman told them Wednesday he won’t rule until the U.S. attorney’s office in Macon completes a review launched last week. Elliott said he expects the judge to file a formal order Thursday.
Sheriff’s investigators decided Johnson died in a freak accident after getting stuck upside down inside the mat. Johnson’s parents suspect someone killed him.
Crump says he plans to appeal the judge’s decision to wait.
Macon, GA — WCTV was there as U.S. attorney for the middle district of Georgia Michael Moore announced he’d be reviewing the Kendrick Johnson case. The Lowndes County Sheriff’s Office deemed closed after they determined the death was accidental.
“The F.B.I., who I believe is the finest investigative agency in the world, is cooperating with us in our efforts. Should sufficient information be developed to warrant a criminal civil rights investigation, I will ask the F.B.I. to open a civil rights, or any other, appropriate criminal investigation,” said Moore.
Kendrick Johnson’s family Attorney Ben Crump was adamant about the family’s continued efforts to try and find out what exactly happened to the teenager. Johnson was found dead, rolled up in a gym mat in the Lowndes High School gymnasium back in January.
“Until we get the answers of not only who killed Kendrick Johnson but why people are trying to cover for those individuals, we won’t stop,” said Crump outside of his office in Tallahassee. He added that they welcomed the U.S. attorney’s investigation.
The Johnson family successfully sued the Lowndes County Sheriff’s Office and obtained previously sealed surveillance video and documents used in the investigation that the family attorneys are reviewing. The Public Information Officer for the Sheriff’s office dismissed the idea that this review meant they botched the investigation.
“We forwarded our investigative file to Mr. Moore’s office several months ago, in fact immediately after the case was closed a copy was forwarded to Mr. Moore, we trust he reviewed that file and, again, we welcome his independent review and look forward to receiving his answers,” said deputy Stryde Jones.
A decision on a coroner’s inquest is expected Monday. If that is granted to the family, the coroner would present information on Kendrick’s death to a jury and they would then decide how the teenager died.
Valdosta, GA – The United States Attorneys’ Office will reopen the investigation into the death of Lowndes High student, Kendrick Johnson.
Johnson was found dead in a gym mat at Lowndes County High School in January 2013.
The cause of death has been under much scrutiny with the family recently winning a legal battle over the release of the surveillance video from the school gymnasium.
Stay with WCTV for the latest updates on this developing story.
By: Matt Galka October 30, 2013
Tallahassee, FL – Kendrick Johnson’s mother, Jacquelyn, was thankful for a judge’s ruling allowing the family to obtain surveillance video that could help determine her son’s death.
“It feels great, we’re just one step closer to finding out what happened to my son,” said Jacquelyn Johnson while standing in her attorney’s office.
Video obtained by WCTV shows other people in the gym with Kendrick Johnson before he was found dead and rolled up in a gym mat in the Lowndes County High School gymnasium back in January.
“It’s still a long battle, we still have a long way to go, but it’s a start,” said Kendrick’s father Kenneth Johnson.
The 1900 hours of video was not all immediately given to the family and their attorneys because, as attorney Ben Crump says, the Lowndes County Sheriff’s Office did not think the judge would rule in favor of the Johnson’s. The family attorneys say that this might not show what happened to Kendrick, but could cast doubt on the “accidental death” ruling from the sheriff’s office.
“We don’t think you will see on that video Kendrick climbing into a wrestling mat as has been concluded by the sheriff’s department. That’s what we don’t think you will see in any on of this 1900 hours of surveillance video,” said Crump.
The judge released hundreds of pages of documents from the Lowndes County Sheriff’s office investigation into Johnson’s death.
“We now have the means of which to identify specific students, what it is that they claim to have seen, and to go much further into our inquiry, our questioning of them, as to what information they may have that would help us, like I said, get to the truth of what happened to Kendrick,” said attorney Chevene King.
We reached out to the sheriff’s office on Wednesday but they did not want to comment. A decision on the family’s lawsuit regarding a coroner inquest is expected to be made Monday.
Micahel Moore, the United States attorney for the middle district of Georgia, is expected to make an announcement on this case on Thursday at 1 p.m. in Macon, GA.
By: Elizabeth Nickerson October 30, 2013
Valdosta, GA – The family and friends of Kendrick Johnson celebrate as they walk out of the Lowndes County Superior Court. A judge Wednesday granted the Johnson family access to all of the surveillance tapes from the Lowndes High school gym. Kendrick’s body was found in a rolled up gym mat in January.
“Anticipate getting copies of all of the video, both within the gym and areas outside the gym leading to the gym space itself,” said Chevene King, one of the Johnson family attorney’s.
Johnson’s death was originally ruled accidental asphyxiation by the Lowndes County Sheriff’s Office. Johnson’s family then hired its own pathologist, which ruled the 17-year-old died from blunt force trauma. Kendrick’s father says the new video released will show what really happened to his son.
“You can’t prepare yourself for it,” said Kenneth Johnson, Kendrick Johnson’s Father. “It’s just something we have to do, we’ll fight for Kendrick till the end.”
“It was a win for the community and everybody who really wants this murder mystery to be solved,” said Ben Crump, one of the Johnson family attorney’s.
WCTV reached out to the Lowdnes County Sheriff’s Office, but officials would not comment.
A decision on a coroner’s inquest with the Lowndes County coroner is expected on Monday, November 4TH.
The judge will decide If jurors would hear the coroner present information on Johnson’s death. They would then decide how the teen died.
“We’re happy to hear that we are one step closer to the truth,” said Johnson.
Ben Crump says If the coroner’s inquest is not granted, they will consider federal intervention.
Valdosta, GA – The judge has ordered the full file in the Kendrick Johnson death investigation to be released to the family.
This includes surveillance video of the gymnasium where 17-year-old Johnson was found dead in a wrestling mat
WCTV expects to receive a copy of this video, and will bring you more information as it is available.
Press Release: Kendrick Johnson Family & Attorneys
The family of Kendrick Johnson will be in court tomorrow at 9:30 a.m. for a hearing regarding the release of the video surveillance tape from the high school gymnasium in which their son was found dead in a wrestling mat.
The family’s attorneys filed court paperwork requesting that the video be released. They are also seeking a Coroner’s Inquest.
The hearing will be held in the Lowndes County Superior Court building located at 327 North Ashley Street, Valdosta, 31601.
The family and their attorneys will address media outside the courthouse following the hearing.
By: Bailey Myers October 22, 2013
Valdosta, GA - The Johnson family’s lawyers have announced they will be suing the Lowndes County Sheriff and the Coroner. Kendrick Johnson’s grandmother said, “No matter what it is we want the truth to come out.” Demanding the truth Kendrick Johnson’s family has now filed lawsuits against both the Coroner of Lowndes County, Bill Watson and the Sheriff of the County Chris Prine saying they have a right to know how investigators determined Kendrick Johnson’s death was an accident.
Johnson Family Attorney Ben Crump said, “The scene investigation has been compromised. But, we believe there are some things that could speak to us like the video, DNA and blood evidence.” Both CNN and the Johnson family have filed suit requesting all investigative finds be released. Focusing on the full surveillance video from the gymnasium, Johnson family attorney Chevene King, “It should show either Kendrick entered the mats as theorized, or he was brought to they gymnasium other than his own power.”
Another lawsuit filed against the Coroner of Lowndes County requests he grant a coroner’s inquest. Where the coroner would present information on Kendrick’s death and jurors would decide based on that information how Kendrick died. “It’s going to be hard… Kendrick was my son… It can’t get no harder than that,” explained Kendrick’s father.
“It’s an insult to injury and we have to file these legal papers and jump these hoops just to get to the truth of the matter asserted. We will get to the truth, we have no doubt about that.”
Attorneys for the family of Kendrick Johnson plan to have a hearing with a Lowndes County judge on October 30th regarding the surveillance footage. A date has not been set in the suit against the coroner. We will update you as soon as that information comes available.
By: Bailey Myers October 22, 2013, 12:35pm
Kendrick Johnson’s family has filed a petition requesting a judge to order a coroner’s inquest.
If the inquest is granted, then a jury will decide the cause of death.
Press Release: Kendrick Johnson’s Family
Kendrick Johnson’s parents, along with family attorneys Chevene B. King, Jr. and Benjamin Crump, will address media tomorrow (Tuesday) at 11:30 a.m. to discuss the filing and their next legal moves in the case.
The media availability will take place in front of the Lowndes County Superior Court building located at 327 North Ashley Street, Valdosta, 31601.