Local News

Controversial Trial in Teen's Slaying Delayed

Posted July 23, 2007 6:56 a.m. EDT
Updated July 23, 2007 8:07 a.m. EDT

— The trial of a man charged with the 2004 kidnapping, rape and murder of a Wilson teenager has been delayed for at least a month.

James Arthur Johnson is one of two men charged with the slaying of 17-year-old Brittany Willis. His trial was set to begin Monday, but the state Court of Appeals granted his attorney a month's delay because she was recently involved in a capital case in Raleigh.

In that case, Byron Waring was sentenced to death for the November 2005 stabbing death of Lauren Redman.

Willis had just graduated from Hunt High School in June 2004 when she was kidnapped from a shopping center parking lot. She was later found shot to death in a nearby field.

Authorities said Johnson and Kenneth Meeks were looking for money and targeted Willis at random.

Meeks pleaded guilty to the crime in April 2006 and is serving a life sentence in prison without the possibility of parole. He was 16 at the time of the incident, so he was ineligible for a death sentence.

Meeks has since claimed sole responsibility for Willis' death and said Johnson shouldn't be held -- let alone tried -- for the crime.

Johnson's family and others in Wilson have rallied for his release. Arthur Johnson said he hopes a jury will finally provide justice for his son.

"It's been a long time coming, but we're ready for the fight," Arthur Johnson said. "As you will see the evidence proves he's innocent, and they have the person who committed the crime."

Prosecutors have declined to discuss the case.