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Archive for Sunday, July 16, 2000

Hanged teen’s family won’t let police view computer

July 16, 2000

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— A computer owned by a black teen-ager who was found hanged in his front yard is the source of a fight between the victim's family, who believe the teen was lynched, and authorities, who want to find out if the computer contains a suicide note.

Raynard Johnson was found hanging from a pecan tree June 16 near the front door of his home hours after showing family members how to use the new computer.

The Rev. Jesse Jackson and family members say that and other events prove the 17-year-old honor student was not depressed and contemplating suicide.

They believe he was lynched because of his relationship with two young white women.

Two autopsies -- one commissioned by the family -- concluded Johnson's injuries were consistent with suicide.

Dist. Atty. Buddy McDonald said Thursday that the family has refused a request by authorities to turn over the computer.

He said his office would rather work with the family to obtain it than seek a search warrant to seize it.

Johnson's mother Maria said she would let the FBI look at the computer in the house, but she will not turn it over to anyone.

"They are insisting there's something on that computer. There is no suicide note. He hadn't even had it 12 hours before he was killed," she said. "I'm not going to let them go in and put something into it."

The FBI would not comment on the case.

Jackson has lobbied for a federal investigation since local and state authorities ruled the death a suicide.

He and the Johnson family met with Atty. Gen. Janet Reno in Washington last week.

Jackson said he was satisfied with Reno's assurances that the FBI would follow every lead in the case.

A girlfriend of Johnson told police that the night of the suicide she told him she was in love with someone else.

Johnson's mother said Friday that her son found the girl attractive but did not love her.

Jackson has dismissed the girl's statement as a "small piece of the case," and questioned her credibility.

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