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October 31, 2013

U.S. Attorney's statement on Kendrick Johnson case

-- — Press remarks for United States Attorney

Kendrick Johnson Investigation, October 31, 2013

Good afternoon. I’m Michael Moore, the United States Attorney for the Middle District of Georgia.

This afternoon I want to make a few remarks concerning the investigation into the death of Kendrick Johnson. Let me take a minute to thank you for the interest you have shown in this matter, and for coming today.

As you know, the body of Kendrick Johnson was found by students on January 11, 2013, in the gym of the Lowndes County High School.

The Lowndes County Sheriff’s Department conducted an investigation into the circumstances surrounding Mr. Johnson’s death. As is customary, a GBI pathologist conducted an autopsy of the body. The investigators concluded that Kendrick Johnson’s cause of death was positional asphyxia, as a result of becoming accidentally lodged in the mat.

Shortly after the results of the autopsy were released, and the investigation closed by the Lowndes County Sheriff’s Department, my office was  contacted by the family’s attorney who requested a review of the local investigation.

At that time, I requested and received a copy of the complete investigative file from the Lowndes County Sheriff’s Department. The investigative file  included reports, photographs, videos, statements, and a number of other records.

In late August, I received a copy of the second autopsy report, which reached a  different conclusion as to the cause of Kendrick Johnson’s death.

For several months now, my office has been continuously engaged in obtaining and reviewing all of the evidence, case reports, and other investigative findings that are available pertaining to the death of Kendrick Johnson. Those efforts are ongoing.

As part of that process, there are several questions that must be answered or confirmed. First, what was the cause of Mr. Johnson’s death? Second, was Mr. Johnson’s death the result of a crime? Third, if Mr. Johnson’s death was the result of a crime, who committed that crime? Fourth, if a crime was committed, who was the jurisdiction to investigate and prosecute those responsible?

Federal jurisdiction is limited, and there may be circumstances where even if it is determined that Kendrick Johnson died as a result of a criminal act, it may not be a crime which could be prosecuted in federal court.

My office has received and reviewed the official documents and conclusions resulting from the initial investigation. I have personally reviewed these documents and have spoken to individuals involved in this investigation.

I have offered, through their attorney, to meet with the Johnson family. I have met with the family’s investigator and reviewed a number of documents that he  has provided. I asked the attorney representing the family to provide me with the full report from his investigator and any other evidence or information which he has developed. I received this information two weeks ago.

We have also asked the public to come forward with any additional information they may have. We are reviewing hundreds of telephone calls we have received about the case to determine if any relevant information exists. If anyone has factual and specific information relating to Mr. Johnson’s death, please contact my office at (478) 621-2701.

Many people have already called to express their concerns, fears and opinions about Mr. Johnson’s death and the subsequent investigation. We appreciate the depth of the concern these callers have expressed, but at this time what we need are people with actual facts and knowledge of the circumstances surrounding Mr. Johnson’s death to present those to us. Facts, not feelings and opinions, no matter how sincere, are the basis of a legal investigation.

At this time, I am of the opinion that a  sufficient basis exists for my office to conduct a formal review of the facts and investigation surrounding the death of Kendrick Johnson. I do this with an open mind, neither accepting nor rejecting the opinions of anyone who has previously investigated the circumstances of Mr. Johnson’s death.

At my request, the FBI is cooperating with us in our efforts. Should sufficient information be developed to warrant a criminal civil rights investigation, I will ask the FBI to open a civil rights, or any other appropriate, investigation.

As the United States Attorney, and within the confines of appropriate federal jurisdiction, I am committed to following the facts where they may lead. My objective is to discover the truth, and I believe that can only be done by gathering all of the relevant information  surrounding Mr. Johnson’s death. I am committed to doing everything in my power to answer the questions that exit in this case, or as many of them that we can.

As those of you who have covered my office or the Department of Justice in general know, we do not typically comment on pending investigations. Because this is now an ongoing investigation,  I am not going to take any questions at this time. Going forward, I will not be making any public comments about this matter until my investigative review is complete.

I want to ensure each of you, Mr. Johnson’s family, the law enforcement agencies, the local community and all of  those who are  interested in or have been affected by these tragic circumstances that my goal is to follow the facts, apply the law, to protect the independence and objectivity of the investigative process.

Thank you all very much.

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