Opinion on the homicide in the death of a teenager from Kan. is not a legal decision


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Cedric Lofton-photo GoFundMe

SEDGWICK COUNTY – An autopsy report indicates the death of a black youth as a result of a physical fight with staff at a Kansas juvenile center was homicide. The autopsy report released on Monday contradicts an earlier preliminary finding that Cedric Lofton, 17, did not sustain any life-threatening injuries.

On Tuesday, December 28, attorneys and investigative staff from the Sedgwick County Attorney’s Office met with officers from the Kansas Bureau of Investigations and detectives from the Sedgwick County Sheriff’s Office to discuss the investigation into Cedric Lofton’s death, according to a statement from District Attorney Marc Bennett.

Courtesy of Sedgwick County Regional Forensic Science Center
Courtesy of Sedgwick County Regional Forensic Science Center

This was the sixth time that members of the district attorney’s office had met investigators from one or both agencies since September. The district attorney is reviewing more than 90 pieces of evidence, including interviews, transcripts, surveillance footage and axon (body camera) videos provided by investigators throughout the investigation.

Contrary to numerous public comments since the publication of the autopsy report prepared by the Sedgwick County Regional Forensic Science Center, the determination that the mode of death was “homicide” does not reflect a legal determination on the part of the pathologist regarding viability. of the criminal offense. charges.

Whether or not criminal charges can be laid is a separate legal decision that must be made by the district attorney’s office based on the laws of the state of Kansas and evidence gathered by the forces of the United States. order.

“A Guide for Medical Examiners” published by the National Association of Medical Examiners, recognizes that there are generally 5 descriptors used in autopsy reports when listing a mode of death: (1) Natural; (2) Accidents; (3) suicide; (4) Homicide; and (5) Undetermined. The term “homicide” reflects a determination that a willful (non-accidental) act was committed by someone other than the deceased and contributed to the death of the deceased. The finding does not reflect a compelling legal finding that the elements of murder or manslaughter are present.

The guide explains,

An assessment of “intent” relates to the classification of the mode of death: it necessarily underlies the quasi-judicial liability flowing from the enabling statute in the relevant jurisdiction of the certifier of death. However, the legal point of view of intention may differ from the point of view of the death investigator. It is sometimes terribly difficult, and sometimes impossible, for an impartial investigator to infer the intention of a victim or “aggressor”. Intention is also much more apparent in some cases than in others. For this reason, the notion of “voluntary acts” or “volition” can be useful. In general, if the death of a person results from the “hands of another” who committed a willful act harmful to the victim, the death may be considered homicide from the perspective of the death investigation. . . Although there was no intention to kill the victim, the victim died as a result of the harmful, intentional and willful act of another person. Thus, the mode of death can be qualified as homicide because of the intentional or voluntary act, and not because there was an intention to kill.

The guide further recognizes,

Deaths due to law enforcement-induced restraint or strangulation or other control measures can be classified as homicide. In such cases, there may be no intention to kill, but death results from one or more intentional, willful and potentially harmful acts directed against the deceased person (without their consent, of course). In addition, the classification of homicides has some value in reducing public perception that a “cover-up” is being carried out by the death investigation agency.

While the identification of a cause of death set out in the autopsy report is a necessary step in the investigative process, the legal determination of the viability of criminal charges requires a separate legal review. This work is ongoing.

In the absence of unforeseen circumstances, the district attorney’s office plans to complete the examination within the next 10 to 15 working days. The public will be notified at that time.

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