A man who spent three years in jail before prosecutors dropped a murder charge has accepted a plea agreement and won't spend any more time behind bars.
James Johnson entered an Alford plea on Monday to misprision of a felony in connection with the 2004 slaying of 17-year-old Brittany Willis.
Misprision of a felony is the failure to report a serious crime to the proper authorities and carries a maximum sentence of 15 months in prison.
In an Alford plea, a defendant does not admit guilt but acknowledges that prosecutors have enough evidence to possibly win a conviction.
The judge who accepted the plea then granted Johnson a prayer for judgment continued, meaning the court did not impose a punishment.
According to court officials, James Johnson pleaded guilty today to a misprision of a felony, that means he was aware a felony had been committed.
Johnson spent three years in jail on charges he murdered 17 year old Britanny Willis in Wilson County back in 2004. Another man, Kenneth Meeks told authorities Johnson participated in the crimes leading to Willis's death. A jury convicted Meeks and sentenced him to life in prison. Meeks then recanted his accusation and told authorities he'd actually acted alone. A prosecutor dropped charges against Johnson in late 2007 but a Wilson County Grand Jury indicted him on a charge of accessory after the fact.
A judge will announce Johnson's sentencing today at 1PM. However, Johnson only faces probation.
The judge also mentioned he had discussed today’s court proceedings with the Willis family who said they were fine with it. During the trial Mr. Willis thanked the judge for his conduct and decisions during the trial.
Jurors will begin hearing evidence in the trial of a man once facing murder but now accused of helping cover up the death of a 17-year-old North Carolina woman.
James Johnson had been charged with murder and rape in the 2004 death of Brittany Willis. The now 22-year-old was jailed from July 2004 to September 2007 on the charges before he was released on bail. In that time, another man who was convicted of the crimes admitted he only told authorities Johnson participated in the crimes because he knew Johnson had told on him to authorities.
The charges were dismissed two months later, but a special prosecutor charged him with accessory after the fact of murder a month later.
Defense attorney Irving Joyner said the trial is expected to
finish this week.
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