Local News

'Battle Not Over,' James Johnson Says

Posted December 21, 2007
Updated December 31, 2007

— Surrounded by his parents, NAACP officials and other supporters, the Wilson man at the center of a racially charged case said Friday he understands "the battle is not over" to clear his name in connection with a 2004 homicide case.

"I'm not guilty," Johnson said after a scheduled court appearance to face a new charge in the case. "I will just continue to fight here to full complete exoneration of any wrongdoing in this case."

Earlier this week, a special prosecutor dismissed first-degree murder, rape, kidnapping and robbery charges against Johnson, 21, but charged him with a reduced charge of accessory after the fact to murder in connection with the June 28, 2004, rape and shooting death of Brittany Willis, 17.

Johnson, who awaited trial in jail on the murder charge for more than three years, has admitted in the past to helping clean evidence from the murder scene.

He has said he was under duress at the time and went to police about the crime three days later.

"(I want) everyone in the general public to look at yourself in the mirror and ask yourself one question," Johnson's father, Arthur Johnson, said Friday. "'If I were in the presence of someone that I just learned committed this heinous crime -- and the weaponry still in their possession – how would I react?'"

"He should have been honored as a hero who chose to do the right thing," added Rev. William Barber, president of the North Carolina conference of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.

"He broke the no-snitch rule of the streets. He was not there when the crime occurred," Barber continued. "James did the right thing. He and his father walked into the judicial system voluntarily and helped them solve the crime."

Barber has led the high-profile campaign to have the case against Johnson dismissed and has claimed prosecutors and police investigators discriminated against Johnson.

"James, as a teenager, did not do wrong," Barber said. "Wrong was done by him by the system. And to further prosecute him is wrong."

Barber has called for an investigation into whether Johnson's rights were constitutionally violated. At the NAACP's request, U.S. Rep. G. K. Butterfield requested the U.S. Attorney General's Office review of the case.

The NAACP has also filed a grievance with the North Carolina State Bar against Wilson County prosecutors. District Attorney Howard Boney and Assistant District Attorney Bill Wolfe have refused to comment about why they continued with the case, despite no clear evidence linking Johnson to the crime.

Dick Ellis, a spokesman for the North Carolina Administrative Office of Courts, said the Wilson County district attorney has authority over the case again, but that he expects another request for a special prosecutor.

"We don't know all that's going on right now – how it's going to be handled – if it's going to be someone from the state or here (Wilson)," Barber said.

"Those things are being worked out. We're going through the formalities, and we're going to continue to stand with this young man as we have."

Willis's family has said very little publicly about the case and have not spoken about the latest developments.

Through friends, however, they have said in the past that they believe Johnson bears some responsibility for waiting to go to police with information about the case.


This story is closed for comments.

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  • enigma1469 Dec 23, 2007

    I hope he gets the harsh punishment he diserves. It's not like he inocent of everything. I guess he hopes the NAACP will give him a get out of jail free card like they are trying to do with the Jenna 6.

  • Jokers Wild II Dec 23, 2007

    LOL @ "He should be a hero!" Yeah RIGHT!! He is nothing but a THUG that helped his friend with the clean up and he should be held accountable!

  • PackGirl424 Dec 23, 2007

    Wilson's DA's office had no choice but to hand the case over to the SP. It was decided by the Attorney General and that was because he was pressured by the NAACP pulling this race card stuff when this case was never about race.

    I too believe there should be a RALLY FOR BRITTNAY. If the people of Wilson see that there are still supports of her and the Willis family and there are people out there that don't back down everytime the NAACP is called I believe you will see some wavering on the part of the Johnson clan and the NAACP.

  • rpd911 Dec 23, 2007

    I would first like to say that this guy is guilty. Second, the NAACP needs to come clean about who they really are. Third, I know a lot of black folks and none of them are from Africa, why do we insist on calling them African-American. I do not go around calling myself European-American because I am not from Europe, my ancestors were. Just a side thought. Oh, he's guilty, not sure if that got in there.

  • catch22 Dec 23, 2007

    they just need to let this gentleman go and "wipe" is record clean!

  • twc Dec 22, 2007

    We need a spokesperson for Brittany! Surely some of her friends must have someone with some clout to get someone not bullied by the naacp to call for an independent investigation. Preferably from the FBI. The SBI could investigate it if they are free from political influence.

    I feel like the Wilson investigators did a good job investigating the crime but I believe they have been stifled by outside influence. We have too many officials in high place that are afraid of confronting racism. Instead, they cower down because of a fear of being labeled racists themselves. There are people in the judicial system who DO have honor and courage! We are calling on that person or persons to step up and do what you know in your heart is right!! It takes courage and honor! That's what you believe yourself to have; otherwise you would not be a crime fighter! You risk your life frequently; your honor is as valuable as your life!! Don't look the other way! JUSTICE FOR BRITTANY!!

  • enigma1469 Dec 22, 2007

    I bet it was really OJ who did it.

  • twc Dec 22, 2007

    The way this crime has been explained is not logical.
    1. Meeks abducts Brittany from a mall parking lot by himself.
    2. Meeks attacks and murders Brittany alone in a field.
    3. Meeks leaves the scene by himself.
    4. Meeks goes to James Johnson and brags about what he did and takes Johnson back to the scene. Until then there were no witnesses.
    5. Meeks and Johnson go clean the suv to eliminate evidence. Johnson at this point had nothing to fear about being a part of the crime. Yet he helped Meeks hide evidence.
    6. Three days later Johnson decides to turn Meeks in.

    1. I don't believe Brittany would have let one person take her from the parking lot. By the killer's admission she punched him in the face. 2. I don't believe Meeks would have been stupid enough to leave the scene and return with a witness. 3. I don't believe Johnson would have involved himself in cleaning up if he had nothing to do with it. 4. Eyewitnesses saw more than one person.

    We need an INDEPENDENT investigation!!!!!

  • whatusay Dec 22, 2007

    slappyh99...good comments, I agree 100%. Johnson contributed to the cover up of the crime which makes him a participant to the crime. Why Wilson DA turned this case over to a special procecutor is beyond me. Wilson authorities know the specifics of the case and refuse to prosecute...Are they affraid of the NAACP ora beinging "Nifonged" or are they just tired of seeking the truth. Give Johnson a trial let him defend himself. So far he has had to do nothing except set back and let the NAACP scare the Special Prosecutot into hiding.

  • slappyh99 Dec 22, 2007

    Just a thought here. Since the original charges that Johnson was in jail for were dismissed, is he able to get credit for any time served? That time was served on other charges (kidnapping, rape, & murder) not the accessory charge for which he was just arrested. Technically the accessory charge is a new (different) charge for which Johnson has not served one day in jail. So if convicted of the accessory charge that he has already admitted to, Johnson may still face prison time. I’m not aware of nor have I ever seen a defendant get credit for time served on an old charge go towards a new or different charge. I’m not sure if the judge would be allowed to apply that time towards a new charge.