Local News

Pressure Mounting to Drop Charges Against Johnson

Posted September 24, 2007 12:15 a.m. EDT
Updated September 24, 2007 10:31 a.m. EDT

— James Johnson is charged with the 2004 rape and murder of Brittany Willis. Johnson's trial was set for Monday, but his attorney said he won't be surprised if the trial doesn't begin as scheduled.

Many believe Johnson is innocent. Friends and family and the NAACP met with the governor's office and the Wilson County District Attorney on Friday. They are leaning on state leaders to step in.

The steps of the courthouse were filled Sunday night as hundreds turned out to support Johnson.

“It’s time for James Johnson to come home,” said the Rev. Dr. William Barber, president of the North Carolina NAACP.

Willis was found dead in a field on Westshire Drive near the Brentwood Shopping Center in Wilson. Kenneth Meeks has pleaded guilty to the crime and said he acted alone. Court records have shown no DNA evidence linking Johnson to the crime.

“It might be the state versus James Johnson, but in reality, I look at this as the nation versus the state of North Carolina,” said James’ father, Arthur Johnson. “The state of North Carolina is just as much on trial as James is.”

The prosecution has not commented on the case. Court records show dogs tracked Johnson's scent to the crime scene. Johnson said Meeks took him there to see the body.

The NAACP has filed a complaint with the North Carolina State Bar asking that Assistant District Attorney Bill Wolfe be removed from the case and saying there is no evidence to support the criminal charges.

The governor doesn't have any authority in the case, but WRAL has learned that someone from the governor's office placed a phone call to the Wilson County district attorney's office on Friday.

When asked if he has heard any news about whether the trial will start Monday, all Barber would say is: "Rumors are flying."

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