Jury selection begins in Johnson trial

February 9, 2009 3:38:56 PM PST
Jury selection began on Monday in the James Johnson trial."Right now it's the most important thing involved in this trial, is to pick a jury that's going to be fair and impartial," Johnson's attorney Irving Joyner said.

Once the 12 jurors are finalized, they will find themselves in the middle of one of Wilson County's highest profile murder cases. In 2004, a 17-year-old Hunt High School graduate, Brittney Willis, was found raped, murdered and dumped at a construction site in Wilson.

Johnson was one of three men arrested for the crime.

After sitting in jail for three years on first degree rape and murder charges, his friend Kenneth Meeks admitted he pulled off the crime single-handedly. Meeks is now in jail for life.

But Johnson still stands accused of accessory after the fact to first degree murder.

He says he was taken to the crime scene, Willis' car and in fear for his life helped Meeks clean it up. Johnson went to police three days later and told them what had happened.

The defense says they will argue that Johnson did the right thing by coming forward.

"He has a life for the most part that's been destroyed, for three years he's been in prison and we're still trying to get it back on track," Joyner said.

The state thinks he should still be punished and it has a list of witnesses ready to help argue that point.

"They have a lot of police officers scheduled to testify that have speculation, beliefs and so called circumstantial evidence," Joyner said.

Both the Johnson and Willis family sat through the entire process of potential jurors being questioned, but on opposite sides of the room.

Jury selection is expected to wrap up by the end of the week. The trial is set to begin next Monday.


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