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Medical Examiner Investigation Reiterates that 2008 Death of SJSU Student Was Suicide

SAN JOSE (CBS SF) -- A joint Santa Clara County District Attorney and Medical Examiner investigation on Friday reconfirmed that San Jose State student Gregory Johnson Jr. died by suicide in his fraternity house 13 years ago.

A release issued by the District Attorney's office said the investigation reached the same conclusion of previous investigations.

The November 22, 2008 death was determined to be a suicide by the Medical Examiner's Office at the time. The San Jose State Police Department investigated. The late Dr. Glenn Nazareno, a forensic pathologist with the Santa Clara County Medical Examiner-Coroner's Office, performed an autopsy. Dr. Nazareno noted ligature marks on and injuries to Johnson's neck and concluded that the manner of death was suicide, caused by ligature hanging.

Johnson's family members have disputed the accuracy of Dr. Nazareno's findings, claiming that Johnson was not suicidal, did not leave behind a suicide note, and could not have killed himself in the manner described in the autopsy report.

Following the death of George Floyd, there was an increase in pressure to reopen the case from the SJSU student body and activists, with many saying that the supposed suicide could have actually been a hate crime. Johnson, a Black man, died shortly after the election of Barack Obama, the nation's first Black president. Those critical of the officially established narrative point to this as a possible motive.

In response, the District Attorney's Office asked the Chief Medical Examiner, Dr. Michelle Jorden, to re-examine the death investigation and render an opinion as to cause and manner of death.

Investigators with the San Jose State Police Department shared with Dr. Jorden their entire file, including crime lab reports and written submissions by the Johnson family detailing why they disputed the cause and manner of death. Dr. Jorden also conducted a scene visit and performed a scene re-enactment.

In her report dated November 2, 2021, Dr. Jorden reached the same conclusion as Dr. Nazareno: the manner of Johnson's death was suicide caused by hanging.

Dr. Jorden also addressed Mr. Johnson's mental state at the time of his death: "Medical records were reviewed and confirms Mr. Johnson did not have a history of depression or other significant neuropsychiatric illness. However, this is not uncommon. Review of the scene did not reveal a suicide note but not all suicides have notes present at the scene."

The medical examiner's complete report can be found online.

If you are in crisis, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255), or contact the Crisis Text Line by texting TALK to 741741.

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