A request by federal prosecutors who have spent nearly two years investigating the death of a Georgia teenager found rolled up in a gym mat was denied Friday by a federal judge. The body of 16-year-old Kendrick Johnson of Valdosta, Georgia was found by classmates rolled up inside an upright gym mat propped against the wall in January 2013. Sheriff’s investigators concluded that the teenager died in a freak accident. The parents however, say that he was killed by classmates and have filed a $100 million suit in civil court.
Federal prosecutors launched an investigation two years ago, but did not announce any findings. An attorney for the Justice Department told a Superior Court judge last week that there is still an active grand-jury investigation into the matter. For this reason, he asked for a six-month delay in the civil case proceedings to prevent attorneys from questioning witnesses that are part of the federal investigation. The motion asked for a 180-day delay in evidence gathering, as attorneys had already begun taking depositions of witnesses. Judge J. Richard Porter, who is presiding over the civil case, rejected this request, citing that no criminal charges have yet to be filed and that stopping the case because of this would be improper. Attorneys for both sides of the civil lawsuits have already questioned Johnson's parents, as well as other witnesses under oath, despite the Justice Department's request to halt such proceedings
Civil v. Criminal
The divide between criminal and civil cases can often be confusing for those unfamiliar with the
legal landscape. Civil cases generally involve disputes between individuals or organizations. Civil cases typically begin when the plaintiff claims that another person or entity (defendant) failed to carry out a legal duty owed to the plaintiff. The plaintiff may then ask the court to force the defendant to carry out the duty, compensate them for harm they have suffered, or both. Legal duties that a plaintiff may sue for are established through federal, state, or local laws, as well as rights recognized by the Constitution.
Criminal cases begin when a person is charged with committing a crime, in a formal charge, called an indictment. The government, on behalf of all peoples of the United States, prosecutes the case, and the State's attorney's office prosecutes all states cases. In a criminal case it is not the victim's responsibility to bring the case forward as it is in a civil case. In some criminal cases, there need not even be a specific victim. Drivers who are arrested for driving while intoxicated, for example, are prosecuted because that behavior is seen as a serious danger that could potentially harm others.
Navigating any type of lawsuit is a complicated and difficult process for anyone. The attorneys at Goldstein Hayes & Lina, P.C. are experienced personal injury attorneys that can help you with any legal questions you may have. Contact them today.