KENDRICK 7: Johnson Family on Trial for Civil Disobedience in Lowndes County After their son Kendrick Johnson was found dead in the gym of his high school in January 2013, Jackie and Kenneth Johnson waited anxiously for the results of the GBI autopsy – which took four months. They began protesting in front of the Lowndes County Judicial Complex/Courthouse demanding answers. Johnson’s parents and five other members of his family joined together in a show of “Civil Disobedience,” which Henry David Thoreau first wrote about in his 1849 essay, “Resistance to Civil Government.”
Resistance also served as part of Thoreau’s metaphor comparing the government to a machine: when the machine was producing injustice, it was the duty of conscientious citizens to be “a counter friction” (i.e., a resistance) “to stop the machine.” https://sniggle.net/TPL/index5.php?entry=rtcg#p18
Thoreau, a transcendentalist philosopher disgusted with slavery and the Mexican–American War, argued that people should not allow the government to undermine or atrophy their consciences; asserting that people had a duty to prevent this in order to avoid becoming agents of injustice themselves. The definition of Civil Disobedience according to Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy is:
…Civil disobedience is a public, non-violent and conscientious breach of law undertaken with the aim of bringing about a change in laws or government policies. On this account, people who engage in civil disobedience are willing to accept the legal consequences of their actions, as this shows their fidelity to the rule of law. Civil disobedience, given its place at the boundary of fidelity to law, is said to fall between legal protest, on the one hand, and conscientious refusal, revolutionary action, militant protest and organised forcible resistance, on the other hand.
https://talkingunion.wordpress.com/2012/03/02/sb-469-would-make-civil-disobedience-a-felony-in-georgia/ Martin Luther King, Jr. was also well-known for his protestations of Civil Disobedience. http://www.thekingcenter.org/archive/theme/4733 Tuesday, January 27, marked the second day of the trial following Monday’s voir dire – choosing 6 jurors, comprised of five whites and one black. The courtroom was blocked to the public on Monday and opened again Tuesday (today).
“They now come to this courtroom seeking justice. the only kind of justice they ever were desiring,” said Chevene King, defense attorney for the Johnson family.
George Boston Rhynes, retired Air Force veteran and local historian/documentarian, filmed the protest:
In another of Rhynes’ videos Lowndes D.A. J. David Miller is interviewed by Rhynes and other members of the public before, during and after the Johnson’s protest/arrest, joined hand-in-hand, step-by-step – a methodical process, “one step at a time,” towards the entrance of the inner courtroom area. A careful examination of this total video is telling. D.A. J. David Miller, who has kept a very low profile throughout the Johnson affair, is shown in George Boston Rhyne’s video of the April protest of Civil Disobedience by the Johnson 7 in the below video. Rhynes asked Miller the questions most common in a case of this uncommon variety.
“I’d be happy to speak with them in my office, because this is the people’s courthouse,” Lowndes County District Attorney Miller says in the following video. “The sheriff’s department is not going to release the details of the investigation until they receive everything from the GBI…I’m telling you, in any law enforcement investigation, until they get all the evidence back in from the crime lab and have a completed autopsy report, they’re not going to open their investigation to the public. Now, when the proper time, when all the stuff comes in from the GBI, this will run its proper course and everything will be made open to the public.The dilemma here is that the GBI is not adequately funded to give us timely results.”
Rhynes presses Miller, “Do you think a sufficient amount of time has passed for the suffering parents…to have received some type of answer to some of their questions?”
“I think that in all cases of child deaths that we should have timely results from the GBI so that all families can get timely results for their families can get the kind of closure…This case is not unusual in the amount of the delay from the GBI in getting DNA results, autopsy reports. When we have child fatality reviews, three month delay is not unusual at all for the autopsy report, often that’s because of toxicology and DNA. These folks have every right as citizens to stand up here on the corner and demand justice – and justice is gonna happen in this courthouse. And in our country…” Miller is then asked, “What is the consequence for blocking the entrance to the courthouse?” “I’m not in charge of prosecuting misdemeanors. You have the right to protest and exercise your First Amendment rights as long as you are not interfering with the rights of other citizens..What I’m saying is…If every family who is disgruntled and angry and frustrated about the delay of getting reports back from the GBI, if we had this type of thing going on in 159 counties in Georgia, perhaps the legislature would adequately fund the GBI so all families of deceased children wouldn’t be waiting four months for the results.”
Rhynes asks Miller next, “This case is a little unique because in that the coroner had some disagreements with the sheriff – that had been published publicly. This case is a little different than many of the other cases since I’ve retired from the U.S. Armed Forces.” Miller responds:
“Ok. This case is unusual in the facts and the circumstances – I agree. And the community interest is probably greater in this case than the ordinary child death, and that’s why both the sheriff’s department and I have both been in touch with the GBI to ask them to expedite the DNA results and the autopsy in this case….”
Miller says that by doing so it forces them to “skip over” other people in Georgia waiting for similar results. He also mentions that the Johnson’s protest shouldn’t be a felony. The following video contains striking details from the earliest months of the Johnson case. “Drop to the floor,” members inside the courthouse say, emotions elevated. Lt. Stryde Jones is present. An elderly woman in pushed. “No justice, no peace!” the group says, followed by a prayer. A dramatic video, Rhynes captures what happened in minute detail – and should be of note as the trial continues tomorrow, Day 3, for their peaceful protest.
Today the prosecution stated:
“You’re gonna hear from a lady named Tracy Chatman. She happens to be a felony prosecutor. She works in the DA’s office. She’s on the video and she can’t get in,” pointed out the prosecuting attorney.
It should also be noted that a bill, SB 469, was killed in 2012 which would have made these protests a felony.