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November 1, 2013

Prosecutor reviewing facts in Ga. gym mat death

(Continued)

MACON —

Federal jurisdiction is relatively limited in a case like this, and federal authorities will only be able to open a criminal civil rights investigation if they find evidence that a law enforcement officer or someone acting as a law enforcement officer was involved in wrongdoing in the case. If they found evidence of wrongdoing by someone outside of law enforcement, they would most likely refer it to local authorities, Weinstein said.

A southern Georgia judge on Wednesday ordered authorities to release all surveillance video that investigators reviewed. Johnson's father said after that ruling that he hoped the footage would contain clues about how he died.

Sheriff Chris Prine had previously released surveillance footage that showed Johnson entering the school gym the afternoon before his body was found. No one appeared to follow him inside.

Johnson's parents wanted to see video from the gym from the hours before their son entered until his body was discovered the next day. The sheriff had declined to release the footage without a court order because it shows other minor students who could be identified.

Johnson's body was found stuck upside down in the middle of a wrestling mat that had been rolled up and propped upright behind bleachers.

The sheriff has said he suspects Johnson became trapped trying to retrieve a shoe that fell into the center of the large, rolled mat. A Georgia Bureau of Investigation medical examiner concluded that he died from positional asphyxia, meaning his body got stuck in a position in which he couldn't breathe.

Johnson's family had his body exhumed over the summer so they could get a second opinion from a private pathologist. Dr. William R. Anderson issued a report in August saying he detected hemorrhaging on the right side of Johnson's neck. He concluded the teenager died from blunt force trauma near his carotid artery and that the fatal blow appeared to be non-accidental. A lawyer for Johnson's parents filed court papers last week requesting that a judge order a coroner's inquest.

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