Monday, November 4, 2013
Michael Moore, the U.S. Attorney for the Middle District of Georgia, announced last week his office will investigate the death of 17-year-old high school student Kendrick Johnson, whose body was discovered wrapped in a wrestling mat in a Valdosta, Georgia high school gym on January 11. Georgia authorities concluded that Johnson died by accidental asphyxiation when, while trying to retrieve a shoe, he fell headfirst into a rolled-up wrestling mat and suffocated in the mat overnight. Suspecting foul play, Johnson’s family pressed for a second autopsy, and the teen’s was later exhumed. Although a Florida pathologist said that his examination revealed “unexplained, apparent non-accidental, blunt force trauma,” the Lowndes County Sheriff’s Department declined to reopen its investigation into Johnson’s death. U.S. Attorney Moore said Thursday that his office’s review of the evidence warrants a formal review of the case, although he cautioned that his jurisdiction is limited as a federal prosecutor. Moore’s jurisdiction could be criminal or under civil rights statutes. Also on Thursday, Lowndes County Coroner Bill Watson said he may open a coroner's inquest into Johnson’s death to determine if Johnson’s death was appropriately classified as accidental.