Johnson Family Sentenced For 2013 Protest

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By: Winnie Wright
January 28, 2015 5:00pm

Lowndes County, GA - Jackie and Kenneth Johnson as well as five other family members of the late Kendrick Johnson were arrested in April of 2013 for blocking access to government property. Thursday, those seven people who call themselves the "KJ 7" were convicted of civil disobedience.

A 6-man jury handed down a guilty verdict around 2:30 this afternoon, and by 3:00, Judge Mark Mitchell came back with his sentencing.

Judge Mitchell gave the Johnsons a 12 month suspended sentence as long as they don't get arrested for civil disobedience in the next year.

"We're certainly disappointed at the Jury's verdict. We had hoped that the jury would have understood that the Johnson family had no intentions other than to bring attention to the tragic death of Kendrick Johnson," says Johnson family attorney, Chevene King.

King stated he felt as though Judge Mitchell, of Thomasville, was impartial. However, he added that the Johnsons plan to appeal their sentencing.

We also asked the prosecutor for a statement and were told they had no comment.

By: WCTV Eyewitness News
January 28, 2015 3:30pm

LOWNDES COUNTY, Ga.-- A verdict has been reached in the civil disobedience trial of Jackie and Kenneth Johnson. They have been found guilty with a suspended 12 month sentence.

The Johnsons and five other family members are charged with unlawfully blocking access to government property following a protest at the Lowndes County Courthouse in April of 2013.

Updated By: Winnie Wright
January 27, 2014

Lowndes County, GA - Opening statements were read Tuesday morning in the civil disobedience trial of Jackie and Kenneth Johnson.

The Johnsons and five other family members are charged with unlawfully blocking access to government property following a protest at the Lowndes County Courthouse in April of 2013.

The problem, according to the prosecutor, is that the Johnsons locked arms and kept people from going in and out of the courthouse. Now, in that very same courthouse, Kenneth Johnson told a jury his family hosted the protest, because they felt like they were out of options.

"We didn't have another choice. They gave us no choice. but to come to this courthouse and protest the way we did because we weren't getting any cooperation from the sheriff's department. They gave us no choice but to come here and bring attention to what happened to our son", said Johnson on the stand.

Lt. Stryde Jones, the main investigator in KJ's death investigation, also took the stand. He was on the scene that day and testified the Sheriff's Office tried reasoning with the Johnsons, but also had no choice but to arrest them, after he says, they broke the law.

"We asked them, then we informed them, that if they didn't cease their actions, they would be arrested", said Lt. Jones to the jury.

A six person jury and a Thomas County Judge are hearing the case against the Johnsons. Judge Mark Mitchell is presiding over the case after judges in Lowndes County recused themselves from all cases involving the Johnsons.

Judge Mitchell apologized to members of the media Tuesday in open court. During Monday's jury selection, three members of the media, including a WCTV Reporter, were booted from the court room. After asking Lowndes County deputies why the media could not be present, the deputies responded that the judge said "not to". The media did not have cameras or recording equipment with them, and expressed that to the deputies. During Tuesday's apology, Judge Mitchell said "this is an open court room". He also said no one else would be removed from the court room in this case, unless otherwise stated by the judge.

The Johnsons and the others could face jail time if found guilty of civil disobedience. The case is expected to wrap up tomorrow.

Winnie Wright
January 26, 2015

Lowndes County, GA - Jackie and Kenneth Johnson, as well as five other family members could face jail time on 'civil disobedience' charges.

The family of Kendrick Johnson was in court Monday to face those charges, which were filed following a protest in April of 2013.

That protest, on the steps of the Lowndes County Courthouse, was held just three months after their son was found dead inside a rolled up gym mat. They were protesting the lack of information, they say, was being released in their son's case by the Lowndes County Sheriff's Office; the same office arrested them that day.

Jury selection took place Monday. The six man jury is made up of one black person, and five whites. The alternate is also black. Family spokesperson, Marcus Coleman, says though the Lowndes County Superior Court judges recused themselves from all further proceedings regarding the Johnsons in hopes of fairness for all involved, the makeup of the jury isn't a good sign.

"You have some that feel like the makeup is not a true reflection of your peers, but hey, we're in Lowndes County", he says.

Coleman adds he believes the misdemeanor trial is a waste of tax money.

"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 says. "Hopefully they won't receive any punishment. I'm optimistic."

We reached out to the Lowndes County Sheriff's Office for a comment. Lt. Stryde Jones says it is their policy not to comment on on-going trials.

Opening statements are set to begin Tuesday at 9 am at the Lowndes County Courthouse, the same courthouse where the Johnsons were arrested.

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