Roland Martin talks with Attorney Ben Crump about the latest details that have emerged about the Kendrick Johnson case. Crump is representing the late teen’s family as they fight to uncover the truth behind his death. (READ BELOW)
ROLAND MARTIN: There’s a story we’ve been covering, I’ve heard Sybil talk about it in the headlines this morning. We’ve been on top of this story, and that is the young brother in Georgia who was found dead, Kendrick Johnson. Some major developments this week, and also some things to look forward to on Monday. Joining us right now is the attorney recently hired by the family, Ben Crump. Ben, first of all, we saw the release of the tape, the judge ordered the release of the video tape, the surveillance tape. I saw some reports yesterday showing, it shows Kendrick walking into the gym.
ATTORNEY BEN CRUMP : Yes. Roland, and Tom, the judge, we had some significant development two times this week, the judge over the sheriff’s objection awarded Attorney King and myself the right to get all the surveillance video, not just surveillance video of him walking in the gym, so there’s going to be over 1900 hours. Now the sheriff was not ready for the judge’s ruling, because they still haven’t gotten us the videotape. We believe there was 1900 hours of surveillance is going to at least give us some leads as to what really happened to Kendrick Johnson so we could solve this murder mystery.
ROLAND MARTIN : Now the sheriff did not want it released?
ATTORNEY BEN CRUMP : They didn’t want it released.
ROLAND MARTIN : Wow.
ATTORNEY BEN CRUMP : And there lies the problem. Why did his family have to sue to get video that could possibly show what happened to their son.
ROLAND MARTIN : The second thing, yesterday, a huge announcement. The U.S. Attorney in Georgia announced that he is opening a federal review into this case.
ATTORNEY BEN CRUMP : Exactly. Well, that was another major development because Tom, and Sybil, you all know nothing more than local people like than to have the federal government watching them. So that was significant. But we still have a long way to go, Roland, as you know, as you’ve been covering this.
ROLAND MARTIN : You got a major hearing coming up on Monday that can also change the direction of this case as well. What is happening on Monday?
ATTORNEY BEN CRUMP : Well, that is the most important thing. We are asking the judge to have a coroner’s inquest and why that is so important, right now the cause and manner of death, is still the sheriff’s conclusion is that this 17-year-old athlete crawled into this wrestle mat, got stuck and died. So this is an accident. And until we can get that manner of death changed on the autopsy report, then that’s what it is. Nobody is not gonna move.
ROLAND MARTIN : So walk us through this. So on Monday if the judge rules in terms for the coroner’s inquest he could order an additional autopsy, he could order an outside forensic examination as well. So what could he rule, that could, and if it’s changed to an actual homicide that forces the sheriff’s department to reopen the investigation, correct?
ATTORNEY BEN CRUMP : It forces them to reopen the investigation because, you know, the federal government still wants the local folks to do their job. So they will wait and wait and let them do their job. This time they’re waiting over 10 months. They’ve been on the street corners with signs protesting what happened to our child.
Let me correct one thing you said, Roland. The coroner’s inquest will be like a mini trial. Unfortunately it will still be in Valdosta, Georgia, but there will be a jury of six people who will listen to every part of evidence, even this second autopsy that the state of Georgia has never considered. Remember, they dug him out the ground and found out his organs were missing, and found out that he did die from blunt force trauma in the second autopsy. The state of Georgia has never considered that.
TOM JOYNER : Ben Crump and Roland, I watch a lot of crime shows. It sounds like the sheriff is involved in this murder. Because he’s obviously covering …
SYBIL WILKES: Hiding.
TOM JOYNER : … he’s hiding stuff.
ATTORNEY BEN CRUMP : Well, Tom, you know, it’s just suspicious, it’s very mysterious that they don’t want us to know who killed this child and obviously they’re trying to cover up whoever did this.
TOM JOYNER : And the sheriff is covering it up. I watch a lot of crime shows. This points to the sheriff.
ATTORNEY BEN CRUMP : Well, Tom, we gonna find out. We certainly intend to find out who killed Kendrick Johnson and why are people trying to cover for him, and who are those people, and we want them held accountable, because this family has went through hell just trying to get, I wouldn’t say simple justice, they just want to know who killed their child. And that’s a basic thing any parent would want to know.
SW: How is the jury selected, you said this inquest?
ROLAND MARTIN : Yeah, if the judge rules for that, if the judge rules, and calls for the coroner’s inquest, what’s the process.
ATTORNEY BEN CRUMP : Well, thanks Roland, for saying that. If the judge rules, it’s like a grand jury proceeding, they invite people from the community and they have to listen. So we’re not out of the woods yet, and we’re going to need everybody to stay engaged because we know what happened in Sanford. We got to have a jury and they’re going to have to rule. The good thing about this is we get all the information out there, the coroner’s inquest won’t be binding on whether the sheriff and the state attorney can charge anybody. It’s just a fact-finding mission. But in doing so, you see it Tom, Roland, you see it Sybil, all the world see it; if that DA don’t do anything, they’re gonna have hell to pay because we see what’s happening, and we’re not gonna accept that this kid climbed into a wrestling mat and got stuck and stopped breathing as his cause of death.
SYBIL WILKES: And blunt trauma.
ATTORNEY BEN CRUMP : We were born at night, but not last night.
SYBIL WILKES: Okay.
ROLAND MARTIN : Well, Ben, we certainly appreciate you talking to us. We will stay on this case and keep folks apprised of what’s happening, because again, if it happened to Kendrick Johnson and his family it could happen to somebody else’s family next time.
ATTORNEY BEN CRUMP : Absolutely.
SYBIL WILKES: Keep up the great work, Ben Crump.
ROLAND MARTIN : Thanks, Ben.
TOM JOYNER : Keep an eye on that sheriff.