Local News

What's Next in the James Johnson Case?

Posted December 20, 2007

— Why James Johnson waited three days before going to police when he says he helped another man clean evidence at a murder scene is one of many factors a judge or jury would have to consider if the new case goes to trial.

"If he had immediately gone to law enforcement – with or without an attorney, with or without his father – and said, 'This man forced me to do that,' he probably would have been in a much better position," former federal prosecutor Dan Boyce, now a defense attorney, said.

Johnson, 21, was charged Wednesday with accessory after the fact to first-degree murder in connection with the 2004 death of Brittany Willis, 17.

Forsyth County Assistant District Attorney Belinda Foster was appointed as a special prosecutor to review evidence in the case. She determined there was not enough to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Johnson assisted Kenneth Meeks in committing Willis' death.

The basis for the new charge is one in which Johnson has admitted – that he helped Meeks after seeing Willis' body. Johnson claimed that he was under duress from Meeks.

Initially, Meeks told police Johnson played a role in Willis's death but recanted that statement earlier this year in a letter to a Wilson newspaper, saying Johnson was innocent and all evidence proved it.

The arrest warrant issued Wednesday alleges that Johnson knowingly assisted Meeks to escape by wiping Willis's vehicle down with baby wipes, "thus destroying forensic evidence" in the case.

Johnson was arrested and detained in jail for more than three years on charges of first-degree murder, rape, kidnapping and robbery.

His supporters, including the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, have maintained Johnson's innocence and said that he should be treated as a witness, a not criminal, and that prosecutors ignored key evidence that proved his innocence.

"Our position is that all charges need to be dismissed, and James needs to be honored as a hero," NAACP North Carolina chapter President Rev. William Barber said.

Why Wilson County District Attorney Howard Boney and Assistant District Attorney Bill Wolfe continued with the case is still unclear. Both have refused to comment, and the NAACP has filed a grievance with the North Carolina State Bar about the matter.

Meanwhile, Johnson's first court appearance on the new charge is scheduled for Friday. It is unclear whether the original prosecutors will be involved in the new case.

Foster was appointed only to review the case. It is unclear whether the original prosecutors will be involved in the new case.

According to the North Carolina Administrative Office of the Courts, "in the event a decision is made to take the case to trial, then a new out-of-district prosecutor will need to be appointed."

The NAACP is expected to hold a news conference following the court appearance on Friday.


This story is closed for comments.

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  • AKA PikeMom Dec 21, 2007

    When The Bell Curve Theory came to light,I can only assume that the research had to be done on the NAACP and it's followers..

  • wilson88 Dec 21, 2007

    If anyone was a hero, it was certainly not Johnson...heros dont participate in murder, help clean the prints, possibly destroying his own evidence, and wait 3 days until there is a reward...only to collect the money....Brittany was the real hero, she was the one who faught for her life that day, she's the one who our community mourned so much over that we dedicated a statewide soccer tournament in her honor. It's unjustice for a man who helped in commiting such an act get off scott free, even though he served a measley 3 years in the CITY JAIL, which has should have been STATE PRISON. I have no respect for the NAACP, had it had been the other way around...tell me honestly what position they would have been in...the race card is the only card Johnson can play..thats how they get away with things...and it's not fair...we dont go around doing that here in Wilson... I'm ashamed to have such people living in our community...Brittany Willis will always be our hero...

  • eksodystech1 Dec 21, 2007

    He is no hero. But he should not be considered a murderer either. There were three people indicted for Brittany Willis's murder. The third person (http://www.wral.com/news/local/story/116328/) has yet to see a day in jail and for some reason everyones fails to remember him. All the attention has gone to Johnson. The charges were reduced to what it should of been all along. Now he will more than likely get time served. Now just moved on and watch your children so nothing like this happens again.

    Now the NAACP are truely making a mockery out of the justice system. Now that the charges are reduced, stepback. The NAACP has been failing at doing what they were brought together to do.

  • iamforjustice Dec 21, 2007

    I am very proud of James for coming to the police. That was very brave. William Barber and the NAACP should be commended for a job well done. Without them this young man would be in prison today like so many innocent African-Americans. Happy Holidays.

  • BUCKEYEnNC Dec 21, 2007

    This young man is no hero! A hero would have went to the police immediately after being FORCED to destroy evidence.

    We don't know that the duress even existed. All we know is that Johnson admitted to wiping prints from a vehicle and going to the police three days later seeking a reward in this murder. These are not the actions of a hero!

    Brittany Willis is the only victim here!

  • pete Dec 21, 2007

    the good rev say's mr.johnson is a hero , and this , coming from the naacp leader in nc? a perect example of the credibility of this organization .

  • TexasKate Dec 21, 2007

    May we assume that the NAACP and its community endorse rape and murder?

  • Paladin2 Dec 21, 2007

    "Why Wilson County District Attorney Howard Boney and Assistant District Attorney Bill Wolfe continued with the case is still unclear." - The Reporter
    Why is the reporter questioning why the case has been continued. It should be pretty obvious! The journalist's job is to report the facts; the journalist is trying to slant the story for the NAACP.

  • PackGirl424 Dec 21, 2007

    Ah no .. time already served should NOT cover it ... all the evidence is not out there .. the boy needs to go to trial .. let the evidence out and then serve the maximum time. The media is only giving one side of the story and that is James Johnson's. Brittnay, and her family, no matter how hard it is need their day in court as well. Not to mention the Wilson DA's office to show the people of NC they weren't complete idiots and knew what they were doing all along. The NAACP did their best job to make it appear that way. Belinda Foster, you caved to the pressure of your own. Once the case goes to trial (and I pray it does) the evidence will come out and we will all see how big a 'HERO" James Johnson really is. The Wilson DA's office is not incompentent and James Johnson is not a hero nor innocent. Maxium time is the only way justice will even come anywhere close to "justice served" if there is such a thing.

  • syracuseinwonderland Dec 21, 2007

    This is what the NC NAACP stands for. A black male who admits to covering up a murder/rape of a white female victim is considered a hero. Keep your eye on them folks.