Special Prosecutor Denies Comments on James Johnson Case
Posted January 2, 2008 4:52 p.m. EST
Updated January 2, 2008 8:54 p.m. EST
Winston-Salem, N.C. — The Forsyth County prosecutor appointed to re-examine evidence in a 2004 Wilson murder case says any comments attributed to her on James Johnson's possible sentence are false.
In a news release issued Wednesday, Belinda Foster said "any reports of alleged comments attributed to her regarding any sentence which might be imposed" against Johnson "are false and that no such comments were made by her."
In a Dec. 29 letter to the editor to The Wilson Daily Times, Brittany Willis' family said the case has become more about race and political motives than seeking justice for the victim.
The letter criticized Foster, who was appointed to look at the case, saying she told the Willis family that Johnson "was definitely involved more than he admits" and that she told the family "the charges were correct," that "enough evidence was present and the case would be pursued."
Foster said professional rules of conduct prohibit such comments and further comments about the case.
Johnson, 21, is charged with accessory after the fact in Willis' death. She was raped and shot and left in a field in June 2004.
Johnson was held in the Wilson County jail for more than two years while waiting trial. He was allowed a $1 million secured bond after prosecutors stopped seeking the death penalty in December 2006. Bond was reduced in September to $60,000 when Foster was appointed to the case.
Johnson has denied being involved in Willis' death but has admitted to helping clean evidence while under duress. He went to police three days later.
Foster was appointed to look at the case in September after the Wilson County District Attorney's Office turned the case over amid a high-profile campaign by the North Carolina conference of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People to dismiss the case against Johnson.
The group maintains Johnson's innocence and has said he should be treated as a witness who helped investigators solve the crime.
Last month, the NAACP also criticized Foster for her handling of the case. Through her office, Foster has said that neither the NAACP's public statements nor other public comments were a factor in her decision to reduce the charges against Johnson.