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Kendrick Johnson death: Will feds review case of Georgia teen?

By Michael Pearson and Victor Blackwell, CNN
updated 1:14 AM EDT, Thu October 31, 2013
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • A news conference is scheduled for 1 p.m. ET Thursday
  • Surveillance video shows Kendrick Johnson walking into a gym
  • His body was found rolled up in a gym mat at Lowndes County High School
  • Authorities ruled the death accidental; Kendrick's parents believe he was murdered

Valdosta, Georgia (CNN) -- Michael Moore, the U.S. Attorney for the Middle District of Georgia, is expected to make an announcement Thursday in the case of Kendrick Johnson.

The Georgia teen was found dead inside a rolled-up high school gym mat this year.

It's unclear what exactly Moore will say. He has previously said he was reviewing the case and weighing whether to open an investigation. A news conference is scheduled for 1 p.m. ET Thursday.

Surveillance images and other materials that could shed light on the January death must be released to the boy's parents, a Lowndes County judge ruled Wednesday.

"We are happy to hear we are one step closer to the truth," Kendrick Johnson's father, Kenneth Johnson, said after the hearing.

Evidence in the Kendrick Johnson case
New evidence in the Kendrick Johnson case

A state medical examiner ruled Kendrick, a high school athlete, suffocated after getting stuck in the gym mat. His parents -- who believe he was murdered -- disputed the findings and won a court order to have their son's body exhumed for another autopsy.

CNN has obtained surveillance video, which was part of what the judge ordered released, showing Kendrick walking along a school hallway and into the gym where he was later found dead. Another student is seen walking in ahead of him.

The video also shows Kendrick inside the gym, walking out of the shot, and other students playing basketball.

The materials released by the judge -- photographs from inside the gym at Lowndes County High School, surveillance video from outside and investigative documents -- are unlikely to prove what happened to the boy, Johnson family attorney Chevene King said.

None of the imagery is believed to show what led to Kendrick's death, King said.

Gym mat death shocker: Body stuffed with newspaper

But the materials could cast doubt on the official explanation and nudge officials toward reclassifying Kendrick's death to allow a new investigation into what happened, King said.

"Essentially, it shifts the focus from what the sheriff had offered to other theories that were not explored and that have I think begun to slowly creep to the surface," King said after the hearing.

The school district and sheriff's office had refused to release some of the materials, citing state law that exempts the release of "education records of a minor child."

CNN filed a motion last week to join the family's lawsuit seeking investigative files related to the case, including the surveillance records. The motion was granted.

Kendrick's parents will be among those who will review the images.

You can't prepare yourself for it," he told reporters. "It's just something we have to do. We're fighting for Kendrick to the end."

Kendrick Johnson's parents want answers

CNN's Michael Pearson reported and wrote from Atlanta; CNN's Victor Blackwell reported from Valdosta. CNN's Devon Sayers and MaryLynn Ryan contributed to this report.

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