Local News

NAACP Holds Rally for Wilson Murder Suspect

Posted September 16, 2007 5:18 p.m. EDT
Updated September 16, 2007 11:03 p.m. EDT

— The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People held another rally Sunday night for James Johnson. He was accused of the 2004 murder of a Wilson teenager.

Investigators said Johnson and Kenneth Meeks kidnapped Brittany Willis, 17, from a parking lot and robbed, raped and shot her in a field on Westshire Drive near the Brentwood Shopping Center.

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

Johnson has been in jail for nearly three years. He has always proclaimed his innocence.

NAACP officials said they believe Johnson was wrongly accused of rape and murder. More than 100 people filled the Trinity AME Zion Church Sunday to show their support for Johnson.

“The facts say no, the evidence says no, but the system keeps right on saying yes,” said the Rev. Dr. William Barber, president of the North Carolina NAACP.

Court records showed no DNA match to Johnson, and he passed a polygraph, but the district attorney in the case is moving forward.

“There has been a murder and a conviction. Now, we must prevent a lynching,” Barber said.

While Wilson County District Attorney Howard Boney Jr. said he will not comment on the case, NAACP leaders said they are prepared to fight. This week, they called for the state bar to investigate the prosecutor in the case. They're also collecting signatures to take to the governor next week.

“It’s a mistake or it is a deliberate attempt to create an injustice. I can’t tell which it is. I don’t know,” said UNC Law Professor Richard Rosen. “But I do believe [Johnson] should not be prosecuted for murder.”

Johnson’s trial begins Sept. 24.