Kendrick Johnson was a 17 year old high school student when he died earlier this year. On the night of January 10, Johnson's parents reported him missing when he didn't come home. The next day, Johnson was found stuck upside down in an upright rolled up gym mat propped up behind the bleachers at Lowndes High School, where he was a student. Our Atlanta wrongful death attorneys have followed the story and last week federal prosecutors have decided to review the facts and evidence from Johnson's death and may open a criminal civil rights investigation, according to news reports.
U.S. Attorney Michael Moore is leading the federal investigation and will review the original investigation by the sheriff's office and two autopsies done on Johnson, as well as photos, videos and other evidence and information. The autopsy done by the Georgia Bureau of Investigation concluded that Johnson's death was accidental, that he was trying to get a fallen shoe and fell, getting trapped and suffocating. However, Johnson's parents, Kenneth and Jacquelyn Johnson, had his body exhumed and another autopsy performed, which concluded he died from blunt force trauma to the right side of his neck. His parents believe their son might have been murdered and have been trying to get his case reopened. They are alleging that local officials covered up evidence of a crime. And they allege that key evidence is now missing, such as the cloths Johnson was wearing when he died. The follow up autopsy showed that his fingernails had been cut and some organs removed, as well, which could provide more evidence. A video was recently released which shows Johnson on his last day from video cameras at the school. The videos don't show his death, but his family hopes they may shed some light on what happened.
The federal case led by Moore is a civil rights investigation, and Moore could only go forward if he finds evidence that a law enforcement official was involved in wrongdoing in Johnson's case. A former federal prosecutor noted to reporters that it is very rare for federal officials to step in and look at an already closed local investigation and said, "There must have been something that didn't pass the smell test.
This case is criminal, but is interesting for personal injury lawyers as well. Criminal cases are only one side of the justice system, and civil cases can also be useful to find out more information (see a previous blog on this here) or try to help grieving families.
Atlanta Wrongful Death Lawyers
If a loved one has died due to the negligence of another, the experienced personal injury attorneys at Van Sant Law, LLC may be able to help get compensation to ease the financial burden on your family. To discuss your case, contact the Van Sant Law, LLC as soon as possible at 404-991-5950, or fill out our confidential online case evaluation form for a free consultation today.