Local News

NAACP: Johnson Case Not Getting a Fair Look

Posted December 18, 2007

— Wilson police investigators originally involved in the 2004 murder case of Brittany Willis have been asking questions at the request of the special prosecutor appointed to review the case, the North Carolina NAACP said Tuesday.

Speaking at a news conference Tuesday, chapter President Rev. Dr. William Barber said he had concerns about their work and about two other aspects of Forsyth County Assistant District Attorney Belinda Foster's handling of the case.

"It is deeply troubling. It is deeply suspicious," Barber said.

Barber cited a transcript of a Nov. 7 interview Wilson police did with Kenneth Meeks, who pleaded guilty in 2006 to Willis's death and wrote in a local paper that Johnson was not involved in the crime.

The NAACP wants to know why Wilson police are still assisting with the case if the purpose of the special prosecutor is to evaluate the evidence from a new perspective.

"No one should be involved in this that already had a preconceived predetermined notion, because it taints the process," Barber said.

Foster was unavailable for comment Tuesday.

Johnson, 21, spent three years in jail awaiting trial on first-degree kidnapping, robbery, rape and murder charges before being released earlier this year on a $60,000 bond.

The NAACP, which claims Johnson was discriminated against, has been at the forefront of the high-profile campaign to dismiss the case because of a lack of evidence.

Investigators found no DNA from Johnson where Willis was found. Johnson also passed a polygraph test in which he denied involvement in the crime.

Johnson 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.

Also a question the NAACP has is why Forsyth County District Attorney Tom Keith has been assisting Foster with the review. He has been in contact with Johnson's attorneys, but is not authorized to work on the case, the organization claimed.

"It is unclear whether Ms. Foster has complete independence in how she is conducting the investigation," Barber said.

He said Keith had failed to act as a "minister of justice" when he prosecuted the case of Darryl Hunt in 1984. Hunt was convicted of a similar crime, and DNA evidence exonerated him in 2004.

Foster has the full support of her home office to gather information and has the authority to take necessary steps to give Johnson's case a fair and fresh evaluation, a representative for the state Administrative Office of the Courts said.

It is also up to her to make a final decision whether to dismiss the charges, amend the charges, negotiate a plea deal or recommend moving forward with the case, the AOC said in a written response to questions that Rep. G. K. Butterfield, D-N.C., asked on behalf of the NAACP last week.

The NAACP's third concern, Barber said Tuesday, was that the AOC was asked to appoint two special prosecutors. Only one has been appointed, he said.

The AOC said that if Foster decides to move forward with a trial, another attorney would be appointed because the Forsyth County District's Attorney Office cannot spare Foster to see the case to trial.


This story is closed for comments.

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  • whatusay Dec 19, 2007

    iamforjustice....the NAACP was not founded on Christian principals. The NAACP has nothing to do with religion, and neither does the KKK. Both want the government to support and advance causes that are in the best interest of their race. KKK-white, NAACP-black Difference is that the NAACP supports blacks even if they are guilty.

  • beachboater Dec 19, 2007

    When was the last time you read something about the NAACP that did not include some reference to racism? I would be interested in that. I'm sure it happens, but I don't recall a single time. I have certainly never heard from William, excuse me, the Reverend Dr. William Barber anything but racial bias. You can never spend enough money on Barber's pet projects, all racial, to satisfy him. Barber is an evil man.

    I don't think the intent of anyone here was to attack the NAACP. The thing that started the anti NAACP remarks is the NAACP trying to stick it's nose where it shouldn't be.

    This young man deserves a speedy trial, but nonetheless, he deserves to stand trial. He should not be freed unless a jury of his peers excuses him. End of story.

  • whatusay Dec 19, 2007

    When Johnson tried to collect the reward for reporting Meeks he disclosed information to the police that was not public. The police arrested him because he knew and reported facts that no one would know unless they were there during the crime.

  • tartar1 Dec 19, 2007

    people the difference between the kkk and naacp, is the klan believes they are superior, and will stop at nothing to get rid of the "others". the naacp is about fighting for what they believe is injustices (whether they are or not). the last time ive checked the naacp has not killed anyone because they were "inferior"

  • iamforjustice Dec 19, 2007

    How can you people compare the NAACP to the KKK. NAACP was founded on Christian views to help, protect and educate people...kkk was developed to kill Black people. Simply put.

  • arljsl Dec 19, 2007

    what is the difference in the naacp and the kkk. they both seem to think they know everything. i think that if the naacp is here they need to let the kkk here also!!!! i am so tired of hearing the poor james johnson pity act. i think that he should still have to pay for being a part of the cleaning up and also for trying to get the reward money. i mean come on how low can you get. all the newspaper and the newschannels are making him get publicity out of a girl that lost her life. may peace be with the willis family since everytime they open the newspaper or turn on the tv they are having to relive the tradgy that their daughter had to go through. i say let a jury decide if he is guilty or not!!!!!!!!!!! the naacp needs to keep their opinions to themselves.

  • Dec 19, 2007

    "Therefore, pls think before you speak and refrain from passing judgement. Afterall, you never know when you or a loved one may be involved in a situation somewhat like this one."

    Most law abiding citizens don't have to worry about the drivel you typed. It is not "situational" to be involved in covering up the murder and rape of a young girl. Perhaps in your and Mr. Johnson's world that's the norm?

  • Coach K is GREAT Dec 19, 2007


    comment with racist overtones have been posted regarding this story. I'm assuming that most have been posted by people who have never experienced the criminal justice system from a Black view. I say give the guy a chance to prove his case, just like if he was White..
    December 19, 2007 7:53 a.m.
    Report abuse

    That's ridiculous. I don't need to see it through a black view.
    I've never commited a crime. That's an excuse, and it's OLD.

    Stop commiting crimes or come up with another excuse!!!!!

  • iamforjustice Dec 19, 2007

    You all are making this case personal to attack the NAACP who has done nothing but try to help. You need to realize why they came into existence and it was never just made up of Blacks only. Now if attacking them and calling them racist makes you happy then you really need to look deep within yourselves and ask why it makes you feel good to attack an upstanding organization. Then after evaluating that then look into the situation of this kid. Whether or not he is innocent/guilty he still deserves fairness and that was not granted to him in this case. He has spent 3 years in prison without evidence. Stop attacking race and attack the justice system people. I know that ignorance is bliss to you all but find another way to enjoy happiness.

  • Dec 19, 2007

    A child was raped and murdered. I don't care what color the subhumans were that committed this horrific crime. We know there's one in prison already. The only thing about race here is the absolute fact: one black male is already in prison and hopefully Mr. Johnson will be joining him real soon.