New development in Kendrick Johnson case EDITED BELOW

March 21, 2014

Friday, March 21, 2014

Good afternoon:

Based on documents provided to CNN on Monday pursuant to a FOIA request, Victor Blackwell of CNN has discovered that state investigators in the Kendrick Johnson case received an email from an anonymous person “claiming an ex-schoolmate reportedly confessed to killing Kendrick Johnson.”

The anonymous person did not claim to have been present when the ex-schoolmate made the confession. Instead, the anonymous person claimed to have heard about the confession from someone else. The anonymous person identified four students in the email.

The email is dated January 27, 2013 which is 16 days after Kendrick Johnson’s body was discovered in the rolled-up gym mat.

Pursuant to the FOIA request, the Lowndes County Sheriff’s Office provided CNN with a copy of an incident report dated January 28th in which investigators contacted two of the four students and interviewed them. Both admitted knowing Kendrick but denied being involved in his death.

Apparently, the investigators did not contact the other two students.

A prosecutor also attempted to determine the identity of the anonymous person who sent the email by contacting Mediacom, the internet service provider the anonymous person used to contact the sheriff’s office. In the ordinary course of business, Mediacom would have insisted on receiving a subpoena before it would identify the anonymous person.

Blackwell states,

Chief Assistant District Attorney Bradfield Shealy issued the subpoena to Mediacom Communications Corporation on January 28. The New York-based cable, phone and Internet provider was ordered to provide the Lowndes County grand jury with subscriber information associated with the e-mail sent through the Lowndes County sheriff’s office’s website or submit the documents to the district attorney’s office or Lt. Jones before February 26.
According to a Lowndes County Sheriff’s Office incident report, the subpoena was faxed to Mediacom on February 7. The company intends to comply with the order. However, a Mediacom employee told CNN by phone Wednesday that Mediacom has not received the subpoena.

In other words, someone dropped the ball. Either the ADA did not fax the subpoena to the correct number or the custodian of records at Mediacom forgot to obtain and send the requested information. This sort of thing happens occasionally. The ADA should have followed up on his request when he did not receive the information he requested. If he had, Mediacom probably would have sent the information.

If Mediacom had refused, the ADA could have applied to the court for an order compelling Mediacom to provide the requested information. That did not happen.

Therefore, we have yet another example of a failure to thoroughly investigate this case.

Apparently, a decision was made to close the investigation before investigators identified the anonymous source of the email and interviewed the other two students identified by the anonymous source.

This information provides additional evidence that the investigation by state authorities was incomplete.

EDIT: The anonymous email was sent January 27, 2014 (not 2013).


Critically important video in Kendrick Johnson case is coincidentally missing

December 20, 2013

Friday, December 20, 2013

Good Morning:

CNN reported yesterday that Michael Moore, the United States Attorney for the Middle District of Georgia, issued a grand jury subpoena to seize the original hard drives of the video surveillance system at the Lowndes County High School.

Victor Blackwell of CNN demonstrates on Anderson 360 why they are important during this interview of Grant Fredericks, a forensic video analyst hired by CNN “to analyze more than 290 hours of material from all 35 cameras inside and outside of the gym. Fredericks is a U.S. Justice Department consultant and contract instructor for the FBI National Academy in Quantico, Virginia.”

VB: CNN has hired Grant Fredericks and his team at Forensic Video Solutions to analyze the hundreds of hours of surveillance from Lowndes High School, Although he does not believe the jumpy video is the result of editing, he says there are some other major problems.

GF: Those files are not original files. They’re not something that an investigator should rely on for the truth of the video. They’ve been altered in a number of ways, primarily in image quality and likely in dropped information, information lost. They’re also a number of files that have been corrupted because they have not been processed correctly and they’re not playable. I can’t say why they were done that way but they were not done correctly and they were not done thoroughly. So, we’re missing information.

VB: Fredericks says that’s probably due to how a investigators acquired the surveillance video.

GF: Right now, what they’ve done is they have left it up to the school district to define what it is they want to provide to the police, and I think that probably is a mistake.

VB: According to Lowndes County Sheriff’s Office incident reports, a detective watched a portion of the surveillance video the day Kendrick Johnson was found. Then he asked the school board’s information technology worker for a copy of the surveillance video for the entire wing of the school with the old gym for the last 48 hours. Five days later, that IT worker provided a hard drive and, according to the incident report, the detective said it contained the requested surveillance video.

GH: The investigator’s responsibility is to acquire the entire digital video recording system and then have their staff define what they want to obtain. You don’t want somebody who might be a party to the responsibility to make a decision regarding what they will provide to the police.

VB: And after hours of analysis, Fredericks questions whether Lowndes County Schools provided all of the surveillance video from the old gym to investigators.

GF: There is a hole of time where none of the cameras provide any of the record that I’ve been provided.

VB: Fredericks has all of the cameras and all of the angles and all of the video released by the Lowndes County Sheriff’s Office.

GF: There are 4 cameras in the gym that record motion from the time lights turn on in the morning until when the lights are turned off at night, except for the area of interest.

VB: The moment before Kendrick Johnson enters the gym. Look at what happens to the recordings from these four cameras in the gym. The time is recorded with the video.

The first camera captures images from the start of the day until 12:04 pm, then, nothing. It picks up again at 1:09 pm.

There’s consistent surveillance from the second camera until 11:05 am. Then it stops and picks up more than two hours later at 1:15 pm.

The third camera also drops at 11:05 am. It picks up again at 1:16 pm.

And from the final camera, there’s surveillance until 12:04 pm. No recording for more than an hour. Then it picks up again at 1:09 pm.

GF: I would absolutely expect there would be some record of that activity and we don’t have any here.

VB: Here’s why Frederick would have expected the motion activated system to record during that time. During that hour and five minutes, several students can be seen walking into and out of the old gym from the surveillance camera just outside the gym door.

We count seven male students and three of them walk into the gym within three minutes prior to Kendrick walking into the gym.

GF: I can’t tell you whether there was no information recorded in the video system or whether somebody made an error or whether someone made an error and didn’t capture it or whether somebody just didn’t provide it.

VB: When surveillance in the gym resumes at 1:09 pm, we can see just these few frames of Kendrick Johnson running in the gym.

Here’s that moment from all of the cameras in the gym, although there’s a record from only two, and the camera just outside the door. Notice the hall camera time stamp appears to be 10 minutes behind and there’s no confirmation that either camera matches the exact time of day. It is the last time his image is captured on video. For the next hour, there are multiple gaps in the video surveillance for the gym.

And that is crucial, It’s a really important time.

GF: Well, it really is the only option to answer the question of what really happened.

VB: And there’s no video showing the initial discovery of a body in the gym. The next time we see Kendrick Johnson is the following day when he’s being wheeled out of they gym in a body bag.

Do you believe that it’s a coincidence that that time period in the gym is missing?

GF: Oh, boy. Investigators are always suspicious, and should be suspicious it’s suspicious that that time period is not there, so yes, I would be suspicious and until I have the digital video system in my hands and I can say or an investigator can say everything is intact, this was what was recorded, I would still be highly suspicious of this.

VB: So after fighting for months on a city street corner and in the county courthouse to get the surveillance video, Kendrick Johnson’s parents still do not know who was in the gym before Kendrick ran in, nor who, if anyone, was there or what happened in those moments afterward.

We also know from previous reports that video recorded from the only camera aimed at the area where Kendrick Johnson’s body was discovered is blurry.

The probability that all of the missing and blurry video is coincidental must be vanishingly small.

There appears to be something rotten in Lowndes County, Georgia and the corruption runs deep and sloppy.

In this case, I can confidently conclude that absence of evidence is not proof of absence.

Let’ts hope the missing evidence has not been destroyed and can be retrieved from the original hard drives.


Police suppressed coroner’s report criticizing police investigation in Kendrick Johnson death

November 8, 2013

Friday, November 8, 2013

Good afternoon:

Victor Blackwell of CNN reported late last night that the original Coroner’s report regarding Kendrick Johnson’s death was extremely critical of the police investigation. In his January 22nd report, Lowndes County Coroner Bill Watson wrote:

“I was not notifedi n (sic) this death until 15:45 hours. The investigative climate was very poor to worse when I arrived on the scene. The body had been noticably (sic) moved. The scene had been compromised and there was no cooperation from law enforcement at the scene. Furthermore the integrity of the evidence bag was compromised on January 13, 2013 by opening the sealed bag and exhibiting the dead body to his father.”

“I do not approve of the manner this case was handled. Not only was the scene compromised, the body was moved. The integrrety (sic) was breached by opening a sealed body bag, information necessary for my lawful investigation was withheld.”

Blackwell received a copy of this report recently from the coroner’s office in response to a public records request.

In May he was provided with a different version of this report by the Lowndes County Sheriff’s Office. The critical language in the original was omitted and the report was not signed or dated.

Neither the sheriff nor the coroner will answer questions about the two reports.

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