Jesse Jackson's group plans its own investigation of teen's death

JACKSON, Miss. - The Rev. Jesse Jackson's civil rights organization plans to conduct its own investigation into the hanging death of a black Mississippi teen-ager, saying authorities moved too quickly to rule it a suicide.

Jackson and the family of 17-year-old Raynard Johnson contend the young man was lynched by people who disapproved of his friendships with white girls in the rural community of Kokomo.

Two autopsies, including one commissioned by the family, found no evidence of a struggle, and investigators have said their findings also indicated Johnson killed himself. Authorities have said Johnson's girlfriend broke up with him shortly before he was found hanging from a small pecan tree in his front yard on June 16.

In a telephone news conference from Washington, Jackson said his investigators have identified at least 15 people who could have had something to do with Johnson's death. He did not name them.

Jackson also said he intended to have Johnson's body exhumed for a third autopsy.

''In the struggle for justice, we're long-distance runners,'' Jackson said. ''The whole process has been one of inductive reasoning.''

Mississippi Attorney General Mike Moore said state and local investigators had tracked down every lead received from Johnson's family and Jackson's organization, the Rainbow/PUSH coalition.

A federal investigation is still under way.


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