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National NAACP: Wilson Murder Suspect Should Be Exonerated

Posted November 29, 2007
Updated December 6, 2007

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— The national NAACP is advocating for charges to be dropped against a man charged in the kidnapping, rape and murder of a Wilson teenager.

The North Carolina branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People has led a high-profile campaign to exonerate James Johnson, 21, of Wilson.

Johnson's bond was lowered from $1 million to $60,000 in September, allowing him to be released from jail, where he spent three years awaiting trial for the crimes committed against Brittany Willis, 17, in June 2004.

A petition on the national NAACP's Web site says, "We demand that all charges against James Johnson, a young African American man, be dismissed. James Johnson should be exonerated."

It deplores the "shocking and terrible" rape and murder of Willis. The high-school soccer player was found dead in a field near the Brentwood Shopping Center.

The petition – addressed to Gov. Mike Easley, Attorney General Roy Cooper and Sarah Parker, chief Justice of the North Carolina Supreme Court – asks that they "grant the special prosecutor independence to conduct a thorough and unfettered investigation of James Johnson’s case."

In September, the Administrative Office of the Courts – of which Parker is president – appointed Assistant District Attorney Belinda Foster as special prosecutor to evaluate the case and decide whether Johnson should be tried.

The NAACP maintains that the case against Johnson is based on discrimination and that it should have been dismissed due to a lack of evidence.

In 2006, Kenneth Meeks, a second man arrested in the case, pleaded guilty to killing Willis, and in a letter to The Wilson Daily Times, said he acted alone. He wrote that all the evidence proved Johnson is innocent.

Records show no DNA evidence from Johnson at the crime scene, and Johnson passed a polygraph test in which he denied involvement in the crime.

Johnson did admit to helping Meeks clean fingerprints off Willis' vehicle but said he was under duress. He went to police three days later and reported the crime.

At the time of Johnson's release, Rev. William Barber, president of the state NAACP chapter, said he hoped it would spur a far-ranging reform of the state's justice system, which he said is flawed and allows racism and classism to exist.


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  • Packy Nov 30, 2007

    I don't get how the NAACP feels like any "African-American" should ever be charged, convicted and punished for crimes no matter how heinous. Give me a flippin' break!!!!

  • gopanthers Nov 30, 2007

    The NAACP has always preached - Civil Rights for "ALL". If they we're not so one sided all the time they would have more respect from me as an organization. Does not "ALL" mean all races?

  • mrr03 Nov 30, 2007

    It's pitiful that we still live in a society where the NAACP would be necessary to seek fairness...

  • Tarheel Army Mom Nov 30, 2007

    Good grief!!!!!!!!!!!! It never stops...

  • beachgal Nov 30, 2007

    Why don't white people have an organization like NAACP? Then we could do whatever we want and we'd have someone get the charges dropped!

  • firstgenchevy Nov 30, 2007

    "We demand that all charges against James Johnson, a young African American man, be dismissed. James Johnson should be exonerated."

    Demand? no one is in a possestion to "demand" anything. This isn't a hostage situation...but I am glad to hear that the NAACP has a list of demands.

    And I'm just wondering, what does the fact that he's black have to do with anything? Ok, he wasn't the one that did the killing. ok, so don't charge him with murder. But he is the one that helped the murder try to clean up and get away with it. ummm....thats illegal too.

    But once again the NAACP fights for the African American even if he admited that he broke the law. Something is VERY wrong with this. One black guy rapes and kills a white girl, second black helps first black guy clean up the car and get rid of the evedence. NAACP thinks and "demands" that the second black guy didn't do anything wrong. Let some white guys do the same thing to a black girl and see what they say then.

  • K9Tucker.LoveMYcop Nov 30, 2007

    What would the NAACP say if the girl was African American and the suspect was white or if it was one of their children? He shouldn't be exonerated, he is GUILTY of accessory after the fact.

  • methinks Nov 30, 2007

    I agree with most post here. If he is not guilty, then why is his only defense race? He should demand his day in court to prove once and for all he is innocent. If I was charged with a crime I didn't commit, I would embrace my day in court. THe evidence is the truth and the jury is the deciding ones. Not the NAACP, not us, not the Willis family. Let the Jury do what they are suppose to do.

  • Politically Honest NOT PC Nov 30, 2007

    NAACP only comes to the aid of the "african" Americans. That brings up two questions: 1-what part of africa are these americans from? 2-what about the rest of the Americans? who do they go to for help to when they are accused of a crime the did(not) do?
    Ok That was three questions, call the naacp!

  • unc83 Nov 30, 2007

    I don't think the state has a case at all against this guy. I understand everyone wants justice, but I don't think it is much of a leap to think this 17 yr old was under duress at the time he wiped off the fingerprints. When I was 17, if a friend of mine had killed someone, I can't say I would of ran straight to the police because I would have been in shock. This guy had NOTHING TO DO WITH THE MURDER, so put him on trial for accessory after the fact and get it over with. I would set him free.