Johnson special prosecutor search continues

February 12, 2008 10:58:37 AM PST
It's been nearly a month since a grand jury indicted James Johnson with accessory after the fact of first-degree murder in the rape and shooting death of Brittany Willis. But, a permanent special prosecutor has yet to be assigned to the controversial case.

Forsyth County Assistant District Attorney Belinda Foster was assigned to review the Johnson case, resulting in the dismissal of murder, rape and kidnapping charges against Johnson. Foster has said she could not oversee the case during trial.

Meanwhile, the Administrative Office of the Courts is searching for Foster's replacement.

"We are narrowing it down. We have an active search going on," spokesperson Dick Ellis told ABC11 Eyewitness News. "We've talked to several people and we are in the process of coming up with a special prosecutor to go to Wilson."

Ellis added that the interested prosecutors have to take into consideration their workload and the time they'll spend away from their family. The Johnson trial could last several weeks. There is no deadline to assign a new prosecutor to the case. Ellis said it could take several days, weeks or even months before the appropriate person is found.

The ongoing search has left both sides of the case waiting for some resolution. The case gained widespread attention after the North Carolina Conference of the NAACP spearheaded an awareness campaign, declaring James Johnson was a victim of the justice system.

Kenneth Meeks, 20, admitted to raping and killing Brittany Willis in 2004. Meeks initially fingered James Johnson as an accomplice but later recanted his story. Johnson spent nearly three years in the Wilson County jail before his bond was reduced and the murder charges against him were dropped.

While Johnson has maintained his innocence, he has admitted to wiping his fingerprints off Brittany Willis' vehicle. Johnson has said he waited three days to report the shooting out of fear of Meeks who was brandishing a gun the night of the murder.

Johnson's next court hearing is scheduled for March 11.


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