Valdosta Daily Times

Kendrick Johnson

September 6, 2013

U.S. Justice Department: no civil rights violation in Johnson death

VALDOSTA — The U.S. Justice Department has decided not to move forward with a civil rights investigation into the death of a Lowndes High student found dead in the school’s old gymnasium earlier this year, according to an agency spokesperson Thursday.

The statement follows the release of an independent autopsy this week into Kendrick “KJ” Johnson’s death; sponsored by the Johnson family and supporters, the second autopsy was conducted by Dr. William R. Anderson, a pathologist with Forensic Dimensions in Heathrow, Fla.

The Criminal Division of the Justice Department acknowledged that the victim’s family and community members have concerns regarding Johnson’s death, but did not find “sufficient indication of a civil rights violation” to initiate a civil rights investigation, according to the agency spokesperson.

“We obtained the state investigative file from United States Attorney Michael Moore, of the Middle District of Georgia, who referred the matter to the Civil Rights Division for review. We reviewed the investigative file and carefully considered whether the allegations involve a prosecutable violation of federal criminal civil rights statutes,” according to a DOJ spokesperson.

The Department of Justice said it will continue to monitor and evaluate the matter, including the second autopsy report, in cooperation with U.S. Attorney Moore, who has said his office is reviewing the case but has initiated no formal investigation into the student’s death.

The second autopsy performed by Anderson directly contradicted the initial autopsy conducted by the Georgia Bureau of Investigation. The GBI concluded that the death was accidental as a result of positional asphyxia after Johnson fell into a rolled wrestling mat head first and became stuck.

Anderson’s findings stated that Johnson’s death was a result of “unexplained, apparent non-accidental, blunt force trauma, right neck, involving right mandible, and soft tissues, including the area of the carotid body, consistent with inflicted injury.”

Autopsy results released by the Georgia Bureau of Investigation on May 2 states “no significant injuries” were shown in an x-ray of Johnson’s head and post-mortem examination.

Anderson has previously contradicted an official finding with a similar conclusion. According to a 2004 Orlando Sentinel

article, Anderson, a former

pathologist with the

Orange-Osceola morgue in Florida, joined two other colleagues questioning the official cause of a 1998 death of a Rollins College student.

The chief medical examiner at the time ruled the death as a result of an accidental overdose of prescription drugs. Anderson reviewed the records and concluded that the death was due to “blunt-force trauma to the neck,” according to the Orlando Sentinel.

At the time of the article, all three pathologists were no longer with the morgue. Anderson resigned his position in a dispute over work related issues, a second pathologist was fired, and the third retired after the State Medical Examiner’s Commission ordered him to stop performing autopsies due to repeated errors, according to the Sentinel.

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Kendrick Johnson
  • KJ’s parents claim racial bullying in lawsuit

    The parents of Kendrick Johnson have sued the Lowndes County School System, claiming officials neglected to protect their son from racial harassment and bullying that they said led to his death.

    May 15, 2014

  • Anonymous email in KJ case based on rumor, says author

    The teenage girl who authored an anonymous email claiming someone had confessed to murdering Kendrick Johnson says it was strictly a rumor that she felt conscience-bound to share with the sheriff’s office.

    March 27, 2014

  • keyboard.jpg Authorities: Confession in KJ case not credible

    An anonymous email claiming a former classmate of Kendrick Johnson had confessed to killing him was investigated and determined not to be credible, the Lowndes County Sheriff’s Office said Thursday.

    March 21, 2014 1 Photo

  • social.jpg Mom says sons harassed, threatened in KJ case

    Karen Bell has had it with the rumor-mongering about her family’s connection to the death of Kendrick Johnson on social networking sites like YouTube,  Twitter and Facebook.

    February 9, 2014 1 Photo

  • Johnsons file civil suit against funeral home

    Kendrick Johnson’s parents have filed a civil lawsuit against the Harrington Funeral Home, claiming it negligently handled their son’s remains and deliberately withheld information about the condition of his body.

    February 6, 2014

  • 140121-Floyd_Rose001.jpg No response to KJ reward

    A local civil rights leader returned reward money to its donor Tuesday after it failed to yield any significant information pertaining to the death of Kendrick Johnson.

    January 22, 2014 1 Photo

  • State capitol rally today for new KJ probe

    A three-hour rally for a new investigation into the disputed death of Lowndes High student Kendrick Johnson 11 months ago is planned today on the front steps of the Georgia Capitol building.

    December 11, 2013

  • Kendrick_Johnson.jpg Where was Kendrick?

    About this series
    This is the third of four stories by the Valdosta Daily Times reviewing the official police file on the investigation into the death of Kendrick Johnson. Today’s report is about the confusion surrounding Kendrick’s whereabouts the day before his body was found, explains police handling of a report that a person was attacked and falsely accused of killing Kendrick, and tells about the dissatisfaction of Lowndes County Coroner Bill Watson with how authorities handled the immediate investigation.

    November 23, 2013 1 Photo 2 Stories

  • kendrick-johnson.jpg Finding Kendrick

    The Times continues its in-depth look at the investigative case file into the January death of Kendrick Johnson at Lowndes High School.

    November 22, 2013 1 Photo

  • kendrick-johnson.jpg Kendrick’s Final Walk

    A review of Lowndes High School video footage shows more than the moments Kendrick Johnson entered the old gymnasium where his body was discovered Jan. 11 in a rolled wrestling mat.

    November 21, 2013 1 Photo

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