This week, Drewby and Yergy discuss the tragic death of Kendrick Johnson, conspiracy theories related to his untimely death, the gross mishandling of his case at the hands of the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, and how the legal system has yet again failed a person of color.
On January 11, 2013, the body of Kendrick Johnson was discovered inside a vertical, rolled-up mat in the gymnasium of Lowndes High School in Valdosta, GA where he was a student. KJ, as he was known by family and friends, was described him as a sweet and quiet boy. He was a three-sport athlete and dreamed of one day playing professional football.
A preliminary investigation and autopsy concluded that his death was accidental, and was classified as “positional asphyxia” or that he suffocated as a result of being stuck upside-down in an enclosed space for an extended period of time. Johnson’s family had a private pathologist conduct a second autopsy (and years later, a third) which concluded that Johnson died from blunt force trauma, which was allegedly inflicted by means of a 45lb weight or dumbbell, according to many accounts.
Also discovered during the second autopsy was the fact that Kendrick’s body lacked internal organs, and that his body cavity had been stuffed with newspapers during the embalming process. The absence of his organs raised questions pointing at a cover up at the hands of the coroner that handled the initial autopsy, and sparked conspiracy theories regarding organ harvesting and trafficking. Kendrick’s family sued the funeral home, but the case was subsequently dropped as nothing technically illegal had occurred.
On October 31, 2013, the U.S. Attorney for the Middle District of Georgia announced that his office would open a formal review into Johnson’s death. On June 20, 2016, the US Department of Justice announced that it would not be filing any criminal charges related to Johnson’s death. Kendrick Johnson’s family filed a $100 million civil lawsuit against 38 individuals. The lawsuit alleged that Johnson’s death was a murder and accused the respondents of a conspiracy to cover up the homicide, which involved two sons of an FBI agent.
Johnson’s father, however, admitted that he had no hard evidence to back up any of these claims and the Johnsons had to drop the suit. They were sued for more than $850,000 in attorney fees and more than one million in defamation charges. They were ultimately ordered by a judge to pay close to $300,000 worth of lawyers’ fees to those they had accused with no evidence.
Some people have compared KJ’s death to the Emmett Till case.
Drewby and Yergy also touch on the racial elements of this case, and discuss whether or not the case would have been handled differently if Kendrick would have been a white student.
Black Lives Matter
Links to the Petitions To Reopen the Case: https://www.change.org/p/united-states-supreme-court-justice-for-kendrick-johnson, https://www.change.org/p/gbi-justice-for-kendrick-johnson & https://sign.moveon.org/petitions/kendrick-johnson-petition
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