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NAACP: Injustice still being fought

Posted February 18, 2009
Updated March 9, 2009

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— The president of the state chapter of the NAACP says that although a man jailed for three years on a murder charge won't spend more time behind bars, an injustice is still being fought.

At a news conference Wednesday, Rev. Dr. William Barber said more needs to be done to prevent prosecutors from wrongly targeting people not guilty of crimes.

Feb. 18, 2009, NAACP news conference James Johnson was a victim, NAACP says

Barber's organization filed a complaint with the North Carolina State Bar three years ago against the former prosecutor who handled the case of James Johnson.

Wilson County authorities detained Johnson, 22, for 39 months on charges of rape, murder, robbery and kidnapping in the June 2004 death of 17-year-old Brittany Tyler Willis.

The criminal case against Johnson ended Monday when he entered an Alford plea to a charge of attempted misprision of a felony, which means failing to notify authorities of a crime.

Johnson admitted to waiting three days to go to tell police about Willis' death and to turn in another man, Kenneth Meeks, who pleaded guilty to the crime. Johnson always maintained he was never involved in Willis's death.

Johnson's supporters, including the NAACP, say he was the constant victim of a broken justice system and that he should be considered a hero for turning in Meeks.

"Even when the system knew it had no case, James Johnson was offered plea deal after plea deal, trying to get him to plea so that it would cover up the system's mistakes," Barber said Wednesday.

Wilson County District Attorney Howard Boney and Assistant District Attorney Bill Wolfe, who initially handled the case, did not return phone calls Wednesday and have generally refused to comment about the case.

Also Wednesday, Johnson's defense attorney, Irving Joyner, noted that under the deal reached Monday, Johnson did not plead guilty but acknowledges the state had evidence that could have convicted him.

David McFadyen, the special prosecutor appointed to the case last January, however, said that according to the legal definition of an Alford plea, Johnson did plead guilty.

"The judgment will indicate the defendant entered a guilty plea. The facts speak for themselves. He has been convicted," McFadyen said.

The Alford plea stems from a 1963 North Carolina murder case that was finally stetled by a U.S. Supreme Court decision about the defendant's pleading guilty at the same time that he claimed he was innocent of the crime.

Superior Court Judge Milton Fitch issued a prayer for judgment in the case, meaning no sentence will appear on Johnson's record and that the case will be listed as pending indefinitely.

The Willis family said Monday they are satisfied with the deal reached Monday and that Johnson's plea allows them to now move forward.

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  • atozca Feb 19, 2009

    Does Barber really believe that the American public is so stupid that we believe his rants and raves of half truths? If the NAACP would actually focus on the advancement of colored people by getting to the root of the problem within the community of colored people and not promoting racism, people would actually listen to what he had to say.

  • news4u Feb 19, 2009

    The Reverend Barber is leaning so far to left he looks like he going to tip over.

  • GWALLY Feb 19, 2009

    NAACP...should go into manufacturing. They seem to be able to create something from nothing!!!!

  • dukebbfan Feb 19, 2009

    Just read the wilson times & of course the NAACP was on the front page- In the article it states, according to Johnson attorney Irivng Joyner, that Meeks dna and fingerprints weree found inside the car but yet Barber has said all long that the police probably wouldnt have solved this crime if Johnson had not come forward. If Meeks had been in trouble with the law before then his fingerprints would have been in the system.

  • shoyaryt Feb 19, 2009

    I happen to agree with HockeyRules… the NAACP is just wrong at this point. I think Rev Barber hasn’t mentioned the Willis family by name as that would probably create a backwash as well… but to mention James Johnson as a hero is just totally absurd. If anything, his actions were cowardice. No one can be considered a hero for doing WHAT IS EXPECTED of them. Eventually, he did the “right” thing, but reportedly his motivation was financial rather than moral. No one is a hero for doing what they’re supposed to do. I agree that the NAACP would garner more support and positive feedback by actions such as HockeyRules suggested. Being more active in not just troubled black communities but ALL communities. And it’s time to advance from addressing injustices for ONLY black people… if you’re going to be a VOICE against injustice, then you have to be a VOICE for ALL injustices of every race, gender, etc.

  • mmania Feb 19, 2009

    puhleezz with "the healing process"

    Let this young man get on with his life and leave him alone.

    As for Barber he needs to go find a church and preach in it instead of on every sidewalk while he's banging pots and pans for justice. He's nothing but a hate spewing racist himself.

  • oldfirehorse Feb 19, 2009

    This has sure become one messed up, upside down society. For even the local news headlines to be continually filled with articles about rotten to the core, scum of the earth, criminals. Accompanied by ridiculously stupid people spewing messages of hate and defending the trash. We're in for a world of hurt if people don't wake up and come down on these blights and say enough is enough!

  • Weetie Feb 19, 2009

    But I wish he could too. Always stirring up trouble.

  • Weetie Feb 19, 2009

    "Rev Barber needs to go away and crawl back in the hole he came out of."

    He can't!

  • dukebbfan Feb 19, 2009

    sorry-- meant to say they were not out

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