Coroner’s inquest demanded in Kendrick Johnson case

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Good afternoon:

We have a new development in the Kendrick Johnson case.

On behalf of Kendrick’s parents, Benjamin Crump is requesting a coroner’s inquest.

USA Today has the story:

The parents of Kendrick Johnson, the student-athlete found dead in a rolled-up gym mat, are petitioning a Georgia judge to order a coroner’s inquest into their son’s death, the couple’s lawyer said Tuesday.

Kenneth and Jacquelyn Johnson believe the surveillance video taken inside the Lowndes High School gym will show what happened to their son. So far, only a short clip of the video has been made public.

/snip

Crump said he believes the findings of an inquest would support the family’s belief that Johnson’s death was a homicide.

In a press conference Tuesday, lawyers said there are at least four video cameras in the gymnasium, one of which was aimed toward the corner where Kendrick’s body was found.

Officials have said they must wait for consent from other minors in the video before they can release it.

The U.S. attorney’s office has the video and is reviewing the case.

Georgia Statute § 45-16-27 (a)(1)(C) authorizes the Coroner of Lowndes County to conduct an inquest before a jury into Kendrick’s cause of death even though the Medical Examiner at the Georgia Bureau of Investigation determined that the cause of death was accidental due to positional asphyxiation.

This is a very interesting move that I fully support. Early on in the investigation, the Lowndes County Coroner protested the Sheriff’s failure to notify him immediately about the discovery of Kendrick’s body, which is required by law.

32 Responses to Coroner’s inquest demanded in Kendrick Johnson case

  1. fauxmccoy says:

    glad to hear that progress is being made.

    (on a side note, i must need more caffeine, when i went to ‘like’ this article, my eyes deceived me to think that 5 other ‘baggers’ liked this entry. starbucks, here i come.)

  2. Rachael says:

    Sorry, I know this is OT, but I found this to be so beautiful – and in Florida, no less. A cop that didn’t shoot first!!

    http://now.msn.com/jessica-robles-caught-shoplifting-groceries-police-officer-vicki-thomas-buys-them-for-her?ocid=vt_fbmsnnow

  3. aussie says:

    In Australia we have Coroner’s Courts to determine the cause and manner of death in every case where it is not natural causes but nobody has been charged. For example, when a neighbour committed suicide, his apartment was locked and held as a crime scene until the Coroner ruled he had, in fact, killed himself.

    In another case, in which I was a witness, the court had to rule on a fatal hit and run, where the police were unable to charge the perpetrator because, while they could prove he was in the car at the time, they could not prove he’d been driving it. (Long story short, he’d reported the vehicle stolen about an hour later, it was mysteriously found 7 suburbs away just where he went around offering local youths a reward for finding it, and the clothes he’d been wearing that night had broken windscreen glass in the pockets. They charged him with making a false complaint and he got jailed for it anyway).

    Because a Coroner’s Court is a fact-finding court, not an adversarial one, it goes much faster than a trial court, with a lot less argument and cross-examination, and lighter rules on hearsay. .So they often pinpoint persons of interest the police have missed.

  4. You all have thoughtful comments says:

    This link includes a video of the family’s lawyer announcing the filing of the petition for a coronor’s inquest:

    http://www.cnn.com/2013/10/22/justice/georgia-gym-mat-death/

    Family demands coroner’s inquest in teen’s gym mat death

    By Devon Sayers and Matt Smith, CNN
    updated 3:51 PM EDT, Tue October 22, 2013

  5. crazy1946 says:

    How can we claim to be a civilized and advanced nation when a large portion of our population is denied fair access to our legal system, and justice is determined by the race of the individual? I will predict that even if someone is charged with a crime in this case, the end result will be much like we found in the Trayvon Martin case. He who is white is innocent until proven guilty versus he who is black is guilty until he is proven guilty…. regardless of the evidence….

    • In matters where race is an issue,

      He who is white is innocent until proven guilty versus he who is black is guilty until he is proven guilty…. regardless of the evidence….

      There, I fixed it for you.

    • You all have thoughtful comments says:

      Professor,

      I just looked up “coroner’s jury” in the Encyclopedia Britanica:

      coroner’s jury, a group summoned from a district to assist a coroner in determining the cause of a person’s death. The number of jurors generally ranges from 6 to 20. Even in countries where the jury system is strong, the coroner’s jury, which originated in medieval England, is a disappearing form.

      The coroner’s jury resembles the grand jury in that it does not try cases but rather reviews evidence that may be relevant at a trial. The jury’s verdict states how, when, and where the deceased died. If the jury concludes that the deceased died by murder or manslaughter, it can name suspects, and the coroner can order arrest and detainment, pending grand jury action.

      The verdict of a coroner’s jury is admissible only as evidence of the fact of death, which is occasionally an issue in cases of mass accidents or deaths in which the bodies are difficult to identify.

      Critics of the coroner’s jury system assert that jurors are unable to understand complex medical questions, that they tend to rubber-stamp the coroner’s opinion, and that the costs of the office do not justify its existence. Prosecutors suspecting foul play often proceed with investigations even after a coroner’s jury verdict has found that death was the result of natural or accidental causes.

      Professor,

      How is the jury chosen?

      Also, it seems as if the coroner’s role (and professional conclusions) is the most important.

      Also, would the conclusions of the ME (who discovered the blunt force injury) hired by the family carry quite a bit of weight? or would the coroner have a new (3rd) ME do another autopsy?

      • I am not familiar with the coroner’s inquest because we did not have a coroner where I practiced law. I imagine the jury is selected the same way that a grand jury is selected and the process of calling witnesses probably is also the same.

        I think Ben Crump wants to use it as a vehicle to force the Sheriff and the school district to let him see the video tapes.

        I don’t believe there will be another autopsy.

        • You all have thoughtful comments says:

          Thank you for the info, Professor.

          I pray that there will be justice for Kendrick and his family.

  6. kllypyn says:

    it’s obvious he was beaten to death then role up in that mat to hide his body.

  7. lurker says:

    It seems to me that the coroner is competent (one hopes) to determine that the cause of death is “positional asphyxiation.” This says nothing, however, about how the lad came to be in that position to begin with.

    How about we ponder this for a bit. We have already seen that a lot of the crack-down, no excuses movement in conviction and sentencing has fallen heavily on the poor and minorities–creating a sub-class of black men unlikely ever to arrive at gainful employment in their lives. Might another side effect be an increased tendency of certain classes towards the protection of their offspring from consequences of their actions?

    Just seems like there has been a lot of recent evidence of “rallying round.” In Steubenville, Maryville, Sanford, Lowndes County.

  8. “Officials have said they must wait for consent from other minors in the video before they can release it.” Wait, what? So minors can give consent now? Really? Or did they mean their parents? Why not blur their faces or something, before the ‘minors’ lawyer up, hmm? INAL

  9. colin black says:

    Since when has the permission o suspects be they adult or minors be nessessery to view evidence.

    For instance a suspect enters a jewlers fitted with ccyt cameras .
    Jumps the counter assaults the jewler whom later dies.

    An grabs cash an jewlery makes his exit.

    Ive never heard LE or Aothourites say.

    We are hopeing to trace this individual to obtain his permision to release this evidence?

    Its a cover up soon we will discover students involved are from prominent familys with political an financeial clout.

    In the region. .

    • Colin, my sentiments exactly. I made a similar reply before I read your’s, (I must have been ‘logging in’ at the time you posted) though mine was too nice. TY

    • lurker says:

      There are certainly means of protecting the identy of any minors who happened to be there from public view, although they certainly should not be protected from prosecution.

    • I agree. There is no reason to invoke the juvenile confidentiality rule unless identifiable juveniles are shown in the video, and no reason for them to deny consent if they are involved in innocent activity.

      A potential compromise to permit public viewing would be to blur out faces. That way the public could see what people did or did not do.

      If they were involved in unlawful activity, they certainly couldn’t evade prosecution by withholding consent for the damaging evidence to be used against them, so explanations are in order.

    • towerflower says:

      They say the State Attorney has the video and is reviewing it so a law enforcement agency does have it. The impression I was getting is that they won’t release it to the public or the his parent’s attorney until they have permission.

      Regardless, it seems like a blur over faces would take care of that.

  10. Rachael says:

    This is SUCH good news. Thank you!

  11. Two sides to a story says:

    Happy to see some progress made. Hope the corruption ends with the county officials.

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