Local News

Controversial Trial in Teen's Slaying Delayed

Posted July 23, 2007

— The trial of a man charged with the 2004 kidnapping, rape and murder of a Wilson teenager has been delayed for at least a month.

James Arthur Johnson is one of two men charged with the slaying of 17-year-old Brittany Willis. His trial was set to begin Monday, but the state Court of Appeals granted his attorney a month's delay because she was recently involved in a capital case in Raleigh.

In that case, Byron Waring was sentenced to death for the November 2005 stabbing death of Lauren Redman.

Willis had just graduated from Hunt High School in June 2004 when she was kidnapped from a shopping center parking lot. She was later found shot to death in a nearby field.

Authorities said Johnson and Kenneth Meeks were looking for money and targeted Willis at random.

Meeks pleaded guilty to the crime in April 2006 and is serving a life sentence in prison without the possibility of parole. He was 16 at the time of the incident, so he was ineligible for a death sentence.

Meeks has since claimed sole responsibility for Willis' death and said Johnson shouldn't be held -- let alone tried -- for the crime.

Johnson's family and others in Wilson have rallied for his release. Arthur Johnson said he hopes a jury will finally provide justice for his son.

"It's been a long time coming, but we're ready for the fight," Arthur Johnson said. "As you will see the evidence proves he's innocent, and they have the person who committed the crime."

Prosecutors have declined to discuss the case.


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  • browneyedemily Jul 24, 2007

    "you need to understand that the police and DA would not have kept him locked up for 3 years in jail unless they had some kind of valid evidence. end of discussion."

    I understand that's how it should work, but I'd be surprised if I were the only one on this board who knows the justice system doesn't work.

    I'm not attacking anyone and I'm not demeaning anyone. Several news stations have said there is no evidence linking Johnson to the crime scene - he even took polygraphs and submitted DNA. It's written in court documents and those aren't wrong.

  • blb071487 Jul 24, 2007

    browneyedemily you think the editorial could be passed as a news article because that is your opinion not a fact. i have kept up with all the articles about this case, heard all of the rumors and i am also from wilson and a brittany was my friend. you need to understand that the police and DA would not have kept him locked up for 3 years in jail unless they had some kind of valid evidence. end of discussion.

  • browneyedemily Jul 24, 2007

    I knew you'd use that.

    Editorials are based on facts. In terms of journalism, writers formulate opinions based on those facts. What I posted is a fact. If it weren't, that newspaper could be in trouble.

    Take out the first and last two paragraphs in that editorial and it could pass for a news article.

    Also, it attributes the source - court documents. Court documents aren't opinions. If you're really concerned that that's an opinion, get a copy of the court documents. Either way, it's fact.

  • whatusay Jul 24, 2007

    browneyedemily...that is an editorial...it is no different than you and I giving our personal opinion. Just because someone writes something does not make it true.

  • browneyedemily Jul 24, 2007

    "Johnson's account closely resembles Meeks', and there appears to be no physical evidence linking Johnson to the murder. DNA evidence from the scene implicated Meeks but not Johnson, according to court records and the Johnson family."


  • whatusay Jul 24, 2007

    Where have you read that their is no DNA evidence?

  • browneyedemily Jul 24, 2007

    You don't know if the scene of the crime is in the construction field or in her car.

    "there will not be DNA evidence when you help a killer cover up a crime"

    That's probably the most false statement I've heard so far. Assuming reports are true and this occurred in daylight, these perps are in hurry. They're not intelligent, obviously. In terms of kidnapping, raping and murdering someone, even the smartest person can not "clean up" DNA - it's in the victim's fingernails, on her skin, an eyelash that could have fallen during the crime. There's no way to protect against it. AND, you don't know that Johnson cleaned up the actual crime scene - you just know that he helped clean out the car - and you don't even know what the crime scene is, so no one can say that he cleaned up the crime scene. Unless you give me information that says the crime scene was in the car, that Johnson was in the car before Brittany died, then your argument isn't technically valid.

  • whatusay Jul 24, 2007

    browneyedemily...they have not said they do not have evidence...there will not be DNA evidence when you help a killer cover up a crime. And by the way...Johnson's finger prints are in the car where the murder occurred..placing him at the scene of the crime.

  • browneyedemily Jul 24, 2007

    They've said there's no physical evidence. There's no DNA evidence. They've said the only evidence they have are the verbal accusations from the older woman (who has died) and Meeks (who has recanted).

    Unless they got a confession out of him (which they haven't) or unless they get some physical evidence (which they don't have), they don't have anything.

    Cases have been dismissed where there has been more evidence than this. I don't understand why this one is still going.

  • whatusay Jul 24, 2007

    browneyedemily...so you say there is no evidence...The police and DA say they have evidence. They will not discuss it until the trial, and why should they give you their evidence.