Local News

Lawmaker Wants Civil Rights Probe in James Johnson Case

Posted December 6, 2007
Updated December 10, 2007

— A U.S. Congressman is calling for a federal probe to determine whether a Wilson man's constitutional rights have been violated.

Rep. G. K. Butterfield, D-N.C., wrote a letter to the U.S. Attorney General asking for the investigation into the case of James Johnson, who spent three years under a $1 million bond on a first-degree murder charge in the death of Brittany Willis, 17, of Wilson.

In September, Johnson, 21, was released under a reduced $60,000 bond, and the Wilson County District Attorney's Office handed the case over to a special prosecutor.

"The state has yet to resolve the very serious charges against James Johnson," Butterfield said in a statement released Thursday. "Without question, he's being denied the constitutionally guaranteed right to a speedy resolution."

Johnson also faces kidnapping, robbery and rape charges but has maintained he was not involved in the crime.

A second man, Kenneth Meeks, was arrested in connection with the case and pleaded guilty last year. In a letter to The Wilson Daily Times, he said he acted alone and that all evidence in the case proved Johnson's innocence.

Court records show no DNA evidence from Johnson at the crime scene where Willis was found. He also passed a polygraph test in which he denied involvement in committing the crime.

He did admit to helping Meeks clean fingerprints off Willis' sport utility vehicle, but said he was under duress and thought Meeks still might have had a weapon. He went to police three days later and reported the crime.

In October, the case was turned over to Forsyth County Assistant District Attorney Belinda Foster, who will determine whether it goes to trial.

The North Carolina chapter of the NAACP, which has been at the forefront of the high-profile campaign to dismiss the case, claims Johnson was discriminated against.

Late last month, the national NAACP also called for the case to be dismissed. Butterfield, who is from Wilson, wrote the letter at the NAACP's request.

He said the probe is necessary to protect Johnson's civil rights and to restore public confidence in the criminal justice system.

"Three years is long enough. It's time to close this matter. The families and Wilson community need closure," Butterfield said.


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  • NCJB Dec 7, 2007

    "Hey politically honest not correct, so is that why the duke lax boys are suing for "civil rights violations"? They are white, did not serve any jail time and expect multimilliions for "civil rights violations". Come again with that only non whites nonsense, will ya please."

    If that is true, why is the NAACP not supporting them. Because they are white, that is why. The NAACP is a bunch of racist hypocrites.

  • twc Dec 7, 2007

    During times of peace we don't walk around sightseeing a brutalized teenager's body and then help clean the killer's fingerprints and other evidence off the vehicle and then claim to be under duress for 3 days before notifying authorities as they were closing in! Justice calls for a day in court! Let justice be served!!

  • twc Dec 7, 2007

    Learn what justice is; or learn what peace isn't!!

  • rnsjr Dec 7, 2007

    Politically honest not correct......If a person is white and pays his/her taxes then no they do not have civil rights.

  • mrr03 Dec 7, 2007

    No justice...no peace

  • PaulRevere Dec 6, 2007

    They didn't get involved in the Crystal Mangum/Mike Nifong lies, and they won't get involved in this one (nor should they).

  • jsquare8558 Dec 6, 2007

    The story implies that the young man admits to being an accessory after the fact to murder, yet asserts the defense of duress. Whether this defense is valid is what courts and juries are all about--the assertainment of the truth.

  • yeahright2 Dec 6, 2007

    Hey politically honest not correct, so is that why the duke lax boys are suing for "civil rights violations"? They are white, did not serve any jail time and expect multimilliions for "civil rights violations". Come again with that only non whites nonsense, will ya please.

  • twc Dec 6, 2007

    This is about the only way the NAACP can continue to separate black people and their money. They jump on issues like this. The man is in the process of having his day in court. Just like anyone else. I'm sure his lawyers have had a part in when to face the judge and/or jury. Let justice take its course and then act if there is not justice.

    There was a time that the NAACP was beneficial. There are more powerful organizations that blacks can and do belong to that really does offer substantial benefits. The NAACP has become like the KKK; neither one serves the race they claim to represent in a positive manner! They're both well-known racist organizations! All people need to put their time and material into organizations that benefit all of humanity! Both of those organizations need to be a thing of the past! They promote racial ignorance!!

  • Eduardo1 Dec 6, 2007

    why is it taking so long to get resolved. is one side holding it up? you are correct when you say that you never hear of a case of civil rights violation when it js a crime against whites. How come it is not a charge against the JENNA 6 for not only beating an innocent white but his civil rights being violated. What happened to the cry for equal justice by the black leadership. I would sure hate to see a noose hanging from a tree on my street or anywhere else, but I would sure hate to see my son or grandson who lives on this street get beaten by 6 YOUTHS, just because they are white and then have civil rights leaders declare it to be O'K and have the liberal media agree with it.