VALDOSTA — The U.S. Department of Justice has filed motions seeking to halt the collection of all evidence and depositions in a civil lawsuit filed in connection with the death of Kendrick Johnson, just two days after the judge hearing the case ordered discovery be completed by next month.
The DOJ sent two motions to the Lowndes County Superior Court Oct. 16, asking for 180 days to continue its investigation into Johnson’s death before allowing his parents and the defendants named in their $100 million wrongful death to give depositions or collect any more evidence.
Two days earlier on Oct. 14, Judge J. Richard Porter signed a scheduling order creating a Nov. 16 deadline for completing the discovery phase of the case, that includes collecting evidence and deposing witnesses.
As of Friday afternoon, Judge Porter had not issued an order concerning the DOJ motions.
Next week will mark two years since U.S. Attorney Michael Moore announced a federal review of Johnson’s death. If Porter grants the DOJ motions, federal investigators will have at least another six months to investigate the case before the Johnson’s $100 million suit can move forward.
Kendrick’s body was found upside down in a vertically-stored gym mat at Lowndes High School in January 2013. A state autopsy ruled the 17-year-old’s death accidental. The Johnson family insists their son died of foul play.
Johnson’s parents filed their wrongful death suit in January, that alleges Johnson was killed during an altercation with two sons of a Federal Bureau of Investigation agent and that the cause of his death was covered-up by a host of local and state officials.
Thirty-eight individuals were named in the suit as contributors to the cover-up. Recently, Porter dismissed nine current and former GBI employees from the suit, including GBI Director Vernon Keenan and Dr. Maryanne Gaffney-Kraft, the forensic pathologist who performed the state’s autopsy on Johnson’s body and determined the cause of his death was accidental.
In a fourth amended complaint filed last week, the Johnson’s lawyer, Chevene King, added federal allegations against the same nine GBI defendants, which bring them back into the case. The amendment alleges the GBI employees inflicted emotional distress, failed to properly train and supervise, engaged in a conspiracy to cover-up and acted to deprive the Johnsons due process under the law.
The new federal allegations could result in the entire case being moved to a federal court, officials said.
Adam Floyd is a crime reporter at the Valdosta Daily Times.