TOPEKA, Kan. (KSNW) — Investigators and attorneys with the Office of the District Attorney met on Tuesday with the Kansas Bureau of Investigation and Sedgwick County Sheriff’s Office about the investigation into the death of Cedric Lofton.
Sedgwick County District Attorney Marc Bennett says an autopsy’s finding that the death of Cedric Lofton at a juvenile center was a “homicide” doesn’t necessarily mean the center’s employees committed any crimes.
Bennett will decide whether to file charges over the death of 17-year-old Cedric Lofton. Bennett’s statement Wednesday came after attorneys for Lofton’s family described his death as “unjustified.” Read the statement in this story.
Bennett said the designation of the death as a homicide means only that someone’s intentional act led to another person’s death. Lofton died at a Wichita-area hospital on Sept. 26, two days after a struggle with Sedgwick County juvenile center employees.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
On Tuesday, December 28, 2021, attorneys and investigative staff with the Office of the District Attorney met with agents from the Kansas Bureau of Investigations and detectives with the Sedgwick County Sheriff’s Office to discuss the investigation into the death of Cedric Lofton. This marked the sixth time members of the Office of the District Attorney have met with investigators from one or both agencies since September. The District Attorney is in the process of reviewing over 90 items of evidence including interviews, transcripts, surveillance videos and axon (body camera) videos provided by investigators throughout the investigation.
Contrary to multiple public comments since the release of the autopsy report prepared by the Sedgwick County Regional Forensic Science Center, the determination that the manner of death was “homicide” does not reflect a legal determination on the part of the pathologist regarding the viability of criminal charges. Whether or not criminal charges can be brought is a separate, legal determination to be made by the Office of the District Attorney based on the laws of the State of Kansas and the evidence collected by law enforcement.
“A Guide for Medical Examiners” published by the National Association of Medical Examiners, recognizes there are typically 5 descriptors utilized in autopsy reports when listing a manner of death: (1) Natural; (2) Accident; (3) Suicide; (4) Homicide; and (5) Undetermined. The term “homicide” reflects a determination that a volitional (non-accidental) act was committed by a person other than the deceased that contributed to the death of the deceased. The finding does not reflect a dispositive legal conclusion that the elements of murder or homicide are present.
The guide explains,
An assessment of “intent” does relate to manner-of-death classification: it necessarily underlies the quasi-judicial responsibility derived from the enabling law in the relevant jurisdiction of the death certifier. However, the legal view of intent may differ from the death investigator’s viewpoint. It is sometimes agonizingly difficult, and occasionally impossible, for the unbiased investigator to infer a victim’s or “perpetrator’s” intent. Intent is also much more apparent in some cases than others. For this reason, the concept of “voluntary acts” or “volition” may be useful. In general, if a person’s death results at the “hands of another” who committed a harmful volitional act directed at the victim, the death may be considered a homicide from the death investigation standpoint. . . Although there may not have been intent to kill the victim, the victim died because of the harmful, intentional, volitional act committed by another person. Thus, the manner of death may be classified as homicide because of the intentional or volitional act—not because there was intent to kill.
The guide further recognizes,
Deaths due to positional restraint induced by law enforcement personnel or to choke holds or other measures to subdue may be classified as Homicide. In such cases, there may not be intent to kill, but the death results from one or more intentional, volitional, potentially harmful acts directed at the decedent (without consent, of course). Further, there is some value to the homicide classification toward reducing the public perception that a “cover up” is being perpetrated by the death investigation agency.
Though the identification of a cause of death set forth in the autopsy report is a necessary step in the investigative process, the legal determination as to the viability of criminal charges requires a separate legal examination. That work is ongoing.
Absent some unforeseen circumstance, the Office of the District Attorney anticipates completing the review in the next 10-15 business days. The public will be notified at that time.Marc Bennett, District Attorney