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Jury seated in James Johnson trial

Posted February 12, 2009

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— Jury selection is complete, and opening arguments will begin Monday in the trial of a Wilson man accused of helping to cover up a homicide nearly five years ago.

James Johnson, 22, is charged with being an accessory after the fact to first-degree murder in the slaying of Brittany Willis, a 17-year-old who was kidnapped, robbed, raped and shot to death on June 28, 2004.

The 12 jurors and three alternates chosen over the past four days will travel every day during the trial from Tarboro in Edgecombe County to Wilson in Wilson County.

Jurors were picked from Edgecombe County, in part, because of pretrial publicity of allegations of prosecutorial misconduct and racial division over the case. Johnson is black, Willis was white.

Johnson was detained for more than three years on charges of murder, rape and kidnapping before he was released on a reduced bond in September 2007.

In December 2007, a special prosecutor dismissed those charges, but a grand jury indicted Johnson on the lesser accessory charge in January 2008.

Another man, Kenneth Meeks, pleaded guilty to Willis' slaying and is serving a life sentence in prison.

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

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  • Phil in Wilson Feb 12, 2009

    I sure wish I could be on the jury!!! He might get a mistrial because of a hung jury, but he wouldn't be found innocent!!!

  • COPs eye Feb 12, 2009

    I am no longer a LEO in Wilson County I have moved to another county, however I was there when this tregedy happened...Everyone will be glad this is finally going to trial. Regardless of the outcome there will be one side that has a gripe about it.

  • montyburns Feb 12, 2009

    I'm gonna bet he gets off light as the naacp whining party as been going on awhile now, but we will see what happens

  • myrtlebeachrock Feb 12, 2009

    I'm orginally from Wilson and it does not surprise me that it was moved to Tarboro. Edgecombe county is 75% black while and Wilson County is 63% black. So this will be interesting. I just hope justice is served. It's not black or white it is justice that the Wills family is seeking. We need more people in America to stand up like this family has done. They are very brave.

  • Phil in Wilson Feb 12, 2009

    This is the breakdown: The jury includes five white females, two African-American females, two white males and three African-American males. Ranging in age from 20 to 60, they are of truck drivers, heath care workers, production workers, administrative workers and bankers.

  • whatusay Feb 12, 2009

    What is the racial break-down of the jurors selected? Johnson will never receive justice if jury is mostly black, and he might receive a harsh verdict if jury is mostly white. As you can see, race is still the deciding factor in white on black, or black on white crime in America. Shouldn't be that way but it is.

  • mommyto3 Feb 12, 2009

    Quite frankly people in Wilson are tired of hearing about this case. It needs to be done and over with so the family of Brittany Willis have some closure! It is a shame it has become a "racial" issue! IT IS WHAT IT IS!

  • Phil in Wilson Feb 12, 2009

    Well wait and see! We will know if just a few weeks.......and he will be walking!!! Wait and see!!!

  • kandykisses Feb 12, 2009

    Phil in Wilson:
    I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but you are truly deluded. I would love to know what planet you live on to allow you to think he would get off because this was "black on white" as opposed to "white on black". Have you read/listened to the news recently? Nothing could be further from the truth. Try again buddy!

  • Phil in Wilson Feb 12, 2009

    I hope since he did it and has admitted to it, he is found guilty! But it will never happen, because it was a black on white crime. If it was the other way around (a white on black crime),he would definitely be found guilty!