Local News

Trial date set for James Johnson

Posted November 26, 2008

— A Superior Court judge has set the trial date for the high-profile case of a man accused of helping to cover up the 2004 shooting death of a Wilson teen.

Jury selection in the case of James Johnson will begin the week of Feb. 9, with the trial expected to begin the week of Feb. 16, Judge Milton Fitch Jr. ordered during a hearing Tuesday.

Fitch also said the jury pool will come from Edgecombe County, a change in his decision last week that jurors would come from Wake County.

Johnson's attorney had asked for a change of venue in the case because of pretrial publicity, but Fitch wanted to keep the trial in Wilson County.

Jurors will be picked in Edgecombe County and will travel to Wilson for the trial.

W. David McFadyen, the special prosecutor appointed to the case, said the decision to change where the jury will come from was a logistical one.

The Wake County Courthouse will loose courtrooms when a floor closes for renovation.

Johnson, 22, is charged with being an accessory after the fact to first-degree murder in the June 2004 slaying of Brittany Willis. The 17-year-old was carjacked, taken to a field near Brentwood Shopping Center, robbed, raped and shot to death.

Kenneth Meeks pleaded guilty last year to Willis' slaying and is serving a life sentence in prison without the possibility of parole.

Johnson was held in jail for more than three years on charges of murder, rape and kidnapping. Another special prosecutor assigned to review the case dismissed the charges last December and filed the accessory charge.

James Johnson has long maintained he wasn't involved in killing Willis. According to police and court records, no physical evidence connects him to the rape or homicide.

He admitted to wiping his fingerprints off Willis’ sport utility vehicle but said he did it under duress because Meeks showed him a gun. He went to police about the crime three days later.

Johnson's supporters, which include the state chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, want the case dropped altogether, saying he should be hailed as a hero for turning in Meeks to police.

Willis' family has said political motives and race have become the case’s focus, rather than bringing the person or people responsible for their child’s death to justice. They have said they have lost faith in the justice system.


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  • lemonlake1958 Nov 26, 2008

    Thanks for your racist comment. Ignorance says only whites are racist!

    Thanks for reitering my quote, appreciate it, oh, and it's ignorant whites like you who can't take it when a black prson brings racism to the forefront. And personally, I could care less if I make you sick, obvoulsy you're white too.

  • manofjustice Nov 26, 2008

    If Pretty Boy goes to prison I feel real sorry for him. Happy Thanksgiving to all of you. Have a safe and enjoyable holiday.

  • jlh4jdj Nov 26, 2008

    It seems that some posters on here need to really figure out what the word racism means. If you respond to something simply because of the color of a person's skin then you are racist. Note: This is what you and the NAACP are doing. If you want to help someone there are plenty of black, white, etc. who are innocent who need help. If you are an informed african-American great. That means you can read and help all of the young people of all races that need help learning to read. That would be great. By the way the best thing that can happen for James Johnson is the that NAACP stays away. Most people see the group for what it is, the most racist organization in America today.

  • whatusay Nov 26, 2008

    tlbone56.. So you would free Mr Johnson and I would have him in jail for 20 more years. We each have our own opinion. This has nothing to do with race, just justice for murdering a young woman. If she were black I would feel the same. If Johnson were white I would feel the same. Justice for a crime is all this is about, not race, as you are trying to make it.

  • tlbone56 Nov 26, 2008

    WHATUSAY - I know everyone has an opinion, that's the what this post is for. , I stated my opion whether you agree or not. This man has been in prison for three years already, and "NOW" they want to try him in court. Do you not see anything
    wrong there? Facts or not, the stories are different but the fact still remains, the scales of so called "JUSTICE" are grossly "uneven" for African Americans. And by the way, there's nothing about this case that will disappoint me
    at all, it is what it is.

  • whatusay Nov 26, 2008

    tlbone56...everyone has an opinion you know, and everyone is not right. I live in Wilson and have heard lots in info about this case that has not been posted here. I don't know where you got your info from but Mr Johnson will be tried in a court and the facts will be presented, and you and I can then decide who is right and who is wrong. I think you will be greatly dissappointed.

  • tlbone56 Nov 26, 2008

    whatusay - No, I don't work for the NAACP (LOL), I'm just an African American who pays attention what's going on in the world, and have a low tolerance level for people who don't know what they're talking about and let them tell it, they know everything about everybody.

  • twc Nov 26, 2008

    tlbone56, I guess I might be ignorant, also. What is reitering?

    You are most definitely racist by the way. Shame on you!!

  • whatusay Nov 26, 2008

    tllbone56, do you work for the NAACP?

  • tlbone56 Nov 26, 2008

    Iworkforaliving - Thanks for reitering my quote, appreciate it, oh, and it's ignorant whites like you who can't take it when a black prson brings racism to the forefront. And personally, I could care less if I make you sick, obvoulsy you're white too.