Local News

Rally Held for Man Accused of Kidnapping, Rape and Murder

Posted May 26, 2007 7:37 p.m. EDT
Updated May 27, 2007 7:46 a.m. EDT

— People in Wilson are calling for justice in the case of a man accused of murdering a young girl – and they support the suspect.

James Johnson has been in jail for nearly three years. He is charged with the kidnapping, rape and murder of 17-year-old Brittany Willis. His family claims evidence proves he's innocent.

They organized a rally downtown, led by Johnson’s father, Arthur Johnson. James has waited nearly three years for his day in court.

“We want justice not just for James, but for everyone,” Arthur said. “But how can you have it when people that are supposed to impose it are not abiding by it?”

Arthur says DNA clears his son of the crime. Last year, Kenneth Meeks confessed to killing Brittany Willis and says he acted alone. But that's not enough to get James out of jail.

This Friday marks 35 months since James Johnson was brought to the Wilson County Jail. His parents want the charges dropped. They know it can be done, and they point to a high-profile example: the Duke Lacrosse case.

In January, U.S. Rep. Walter Jones called for a federal investigation into Durham District Attorney Mike Nifong.

“We’re in Walter Jones’ district,” Arthur said. “That isn’t, but they were in a real hurry to rush in and their side or help.”

The rally got a little help from a man who has become a symbol for the wrongly accused: Darryl Hunt of Winston-Salem. He won his freedom after spending 18 years in prison for crimes he didn't commit.

“We’re tired of our young men and women getting locked up and their lives taken away from them,” Hunt said.

James Johnson's trial is set for July 23. The Wilson County District Attorney has repeatedly said he does not comment on ongoing cases.