VALDOSTA — Family members of deceased Lowndes High School student Kendrick Johnson were in court on Monday, charged with Civil Disobedience. The charges were related to protests by the family in April 2013.
The protest in 2013 at the Lowndes County Courthouse involved demands for the release of information related to the death of their son, found in a rolled-up gym mat at Lowndes High School. Jackie and Kenneth Johnson, as well as five other family members, were arrested by Lowndes County Sheriff’s deputies that day, three months after Johnson’s death.
Jury selection took place Monday and the court selected a six man group made up of one black male and five white males. The alternate juror is a black male.
Though the trial is part of the family’s due process, their spokesman told WCTV, that he believes the misdemeanor trial is a waste of money, in spite of the fact the family faces possible jail time.
“It’s kind of hard for me to see a city punish a family for seeking justice, and after they did this demonstration, a full-blown federal investigation was launched. I think that should definitely weigh in”, he told WCTV. “Hopefully they won’t receive any punishment. I’m optimistic.”
The episode and resulting controversy has dragged on for years. It has resulted in divides throughout the community between those who believe the death was an accident and those who claim foul play by un-named others involved, and even law enforcement. It has also led to both frustration and a desire to see a conclusion to the controversy by area residents.
Earlier this month, the entire Lowndes County Superior Court judge roster recused themselves from hearing the case. The reason stated was a desire by the Circuit to see the process handled in all fairness. However, Coleman is already complaining about the makeup of the jury selected.
“You have some that feel like the makeup is not a true reflection of your peers, but hey, we’re in Lowndes County”, Coleman told WCTV in an interview.
Based on that statement, it seems a conclusion is far from coming, as far as Johnson’s family is concerned.
Opening statements began Tuesday morning at the Lowndes County Courthouse, the site of the Johnsons’ protest and arrest.