Friday, November 8, 2013

Coroner slams investigation into Kendrick Johnson's death

"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.

The above are a few lines from the unofficial coroner's report for the Kendrick Johnson death case.  This report was never turned in by Bill Watson, coroner for Lowndes County.  I'm not sure what "cooperation from law enforcement" Mr. Bill was referring to - did he need help distinguishing between the smell of a dead person and the hamburger he'd just eaten for dinner?  Did he need help spelling "deceased"?  Keep in mind, Bill is not a licensed investigator nor is he licensed or formally educated in a medical field.  He paid a fee, took a course, and was elected to a job not many aspire to, Coroner for Lowndes County.

The Coroner's role at a death scene is to determine whether or not the person is deceased, cause and time of death.  If the cause is not blatantly obvious, he will order an autopsy and have the body transferred for autopsy.

Interesting to me is Kenneth Johnson's version of what transpired when he allegedly viewed his son's body on 1/13:
Kenneth Johnson: Kenneth drove to the Valdosta-Lowndes Regional Crime Laboratory. He met two deputies and a crime scene technician, who escorted him to the room where the body was held. The temperature inside the room was surprisingly warm, Kenneth remembers. "I thought to myself, When they open the drawer, it will be cold." Only, according to Kenneth, it wasn't. Instead, he says, hot air rushed upward from around his son's body.
When he saw Kendrick's body, he wasn't thinking of saying good-bye or finding closure. He was examining his son's remains for any indication of the misconduct he suspected. Kenneth bent over, leaned in close. He stuck his nose inches from Kendrick's skin, moved his eyes up and down the corpse. The lips were swollen, the skin blackened...
Bill Watson:  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," wrote Lowndes County Coroner Bill Watson in a report dated January 22. (bold emphasis mine)
What I think happened is Mr. Watson saw Mr. Johnson spouting off on TV that he had been shown Kendrick's body - allowed to move his nose all across it and, apparently, take pictures. Coroner Watson was not too happy about that because it would reflect badly on him if the body were tampered with before it reached the GBI lab for autopsy. I can't say I blame him there.  But then I think Mr. Watson found out that Mr. Johnson may have been spinning a made-for-TV yarn.  It is in no one's best interest to keep a 4 day dead body in a very warm environment, and no one would be able to put their nose close to the skin of said dead, warm, putred smelling body, much less go up and down the length of it.  No, it's highly doubtful the attendant did more than unzip the bag a titch to give Johnson a look-see for identification purposes.  The grandfather ID'd Kendrick days earlier as well.  Again, I think Mr. Johnson was waxing dramatic for effect.  God bless his soul for what he must be going through, but the man has been telling tall ones since jump street.

When Watson finally figured out there was no harm, no foul, he backed off his original report and turned in the official report which bore no resemblance to the former. The official report notes read:
"I was not called by investigating officers regarding this death until the afore listed time of notification,"
Fun Trivia: The office of the coroner began in Medieval England shortly after the Norman Conquest in September of 1194. The office was designed to “keep the pleas of the Crown” and the primary duty was to protect the financial interest of the crown in criminal proceedings.