UPDATE ON SUPER-FLOG
Work is continuing on the flog... The reason the flog was initially damaged was due to my haste in finishing it. As a result of cutting a few corners I managed to damage the document. So I will cautiously proceed to complete it as soon as possible. I am hoping to have it posted no later than next Sunday, January 13th.
Word count: 1,824
There’s an exclusive front page news article in the December 27, 2012 issue of The Carolinian titled “Pardon sought for Johnson.” In it, editor Cash Michaels begins with this paragraph: “An ‘appropriate pardon’ is being sought for James A. Johnson, a young Wilson County African American man who, in 2004, told police about the kidnapping, rape, and murder of a 16 year-old girl by a friend of his, but was then arrested, charged and jailed over three years for the crime.”
According to the newspaper, NCCU law professor Irving Joyner presented the petition seeking an “appropriate pardon” before outgoing Governor Bev Perdue on December 14, 2012 – with less than a month left in office and with her simultaneously considering a pardon of innocence for the Wilmington Ten.
To recap the Johnson tragedy: In 2004, 16 year-old Wilson County African American Kenneth Meeks kidnapped Caucasian 17 year-old Brittany Willis from a shopping mall, took her to an isolated spot where he raped her, and then shot her to death. Meeks then confided what he had done with James Arthur Johnson, an 18 year-old African American who he had met only months earlier. Johnson was a good student who shared the love of soccer with Brittany Willis, and had even received a soccer scholarship offer to attend college. Johnson accompanied Meeks in the victim’s stolen vehicle to the killing field where he witnessed firsthand Meeks’ gruesome handiwork.
During the next couple of days Johnson silently complied with the “no-snitch” laws of the street about the tragedy which by this time had grown to a major statewide news story. The family and friends of Brittany Willis even offered a $20,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the perpetrator. Johnson then informed his father about his encounter with Meeks days earlier, at which time he was escorted be him to the police station sans attorney for the purpose of assisting with the criminal investigation. Johnson named Meeks as the culprit at which time
police knew the identity of their man. Meeks was arrested and brought in for questioning. Justifiable anger over the senseless murder of a young Wilson teen by the African American resulted in a transference of that anger towards African Americans in general… and the appetite by police to incarcerate as many black men as possible. Somewhere during the interview with investigators Johnson admitted that he had wiped his fingerprints off the victim’s car… and the police knew they could charge him at least with “accessory after the fact.” But they wanted more, so the interrogators went to Meeks and told him, “Your friend snitched on you.” This evoked the anticipated response from the young Meeks, who feeling angered by betrayal, implicated Johnson as an active participant in the crime. Police, without forensic evidence and relying on the words of Meeks alone, arrested Johnson and charged him with murder. The official police story was that both Johnson and Meeks committed the crimes against Willis, and then Johnson turned over to police his partner in crime in order to collect the $20,000 reward. Wilson
More than a year later, Meeks recanted… after which time prosecutors came up with two eyewitnesses (both with connections to the Wilson Police Department – one being a retired police officer). These eyewitnesses were quickly jettisoned once the NAACP and Rev. Dr. William Barber, with the accompanying media scrutiny, became involved. Trial was delayed for more than two years, and as it approached, the prosecutor Bill Wolfe began offering plea deals. Johnson called Wolfe’s bluff, which led to the
prosecutor backing down and referring the case to a special prosecutor. Wilson assistant D.A. Belinda Foster was forced by District Attorney Tom Keith to take the assignment as special prosecutor, and she relented only on the condition that she not be forced to prosecute. In a preordained charade, Foster dismissed the murder, rape, kidnapping, and armed robbery charges against Johnson and then charged him with “accessory after the fact”… this despite the fact that it was Johnson who was responsible for the case being solved. Forsythe County
Johnson instead of being heralded as a hero for solving the crimes against
Brittany and being embraced by the Willis family, was vilified in the mainstream media and the State which led to a racial divide in the . After a lengthy search, a special prosecutor (W. David McFadyen) was found who was willing to waste taxpayer dollars in pursuing the baseless accessory charge against Johnson. Professor Joyner was one of the attorneys representing Johnson against the special prosecutor’s rinky-dink charge. Although Johnson had been free on bond for several months to await trial, he was once again inundated by prosecutors to accept a plea deal. This time, possibly on advice from his counsel, Johnson accepted the plea deal which resulted in his pleading guilty to misprision of felony in exchange for time served. (Misprision of felony is a rarely used charge for someone who has knowledge of a crime and withholds it from authorities. However, the crime for which Johnson pled guilty was exactly what he did not do, as he did go to authorities with his knowledge of the crimes by Meeks.) Wilson County
An appropriate pardon? According to Joyner, Johnson’s unjust 39 month stint in jail for solving the Willis murder has dogged him like a shadow on cloudless autumn afternoon. He has been unable to obtain or hold down a job once his past comes to light before his employers. Even though Johnson has left the state in hopes of leaving behind his personal nightmare, it follows him… and it continues to destroy his life. It appears that Professor Joyner’s answer to the injustice against Johnson rested with some sort of pardon from Governor Bev Perdue. Because of his plea deal, a pardon of innocence seems to be off the table… and Joyner never fully described what an “appropriate pardon” would be.
In my opinion, Johnson would not be in his current predicament and would not be requiring a pardon if he would have stood trial for the trumped up accessory charge. My feeling is that Johnson was advised by his legal counsel to give serious consideration to the plea offer. The special prosecutor was desperate to obtain a plea deal as he did not want to prosecute the frivolous case against Johnson despite having the backing of a supportive media. Had I been an advisor in Johnson’s circle, I definitely would have advised against accepting any plea deal… I would have recommended that he accept nothing less than complete exoneration with dismissal of all charges related to that horrific incident.
The plea deal might be a good deal for the guilty, but it should not be a consideration for the innocent. All too often in the state of
, prosecutors charge and arrest innocent individuals (usually disenfranchised, indigent, and people of color), and after they serve a significant time of incarceration, hold out a plea deal as the only realistic means of gaining their freedom. Once an innocent person accepts a plea deal, then they automatically release the State from civil liability for malicious prosecution, and they give up any rights they may have for compensation and other forms of restorative justice. North Carolina
Plea deal for Mangum?
prosecutor Charlene Coggins-Franks, aware that the grand conspiracy against Crystal Mangum has been exposed, is now desperately desirous of a plea deal with Mangum in order to extricate itself from the position in which it now finds itself. Despite the mainstream media’s cooperation in keeping the fraudulence of Medical Examiner Clay Nichols’ autopsy report quiet, concealing the esophageal intubation of Daye as being the direct cause of his brain death, and hiding the malevolent and malicious vendetta prosecution by the State, the Durham District Attorney’s Office and its staff know that they are not going to be able to carry out their initial goal of convicting Mangum with a life sentence. The Durham D.A. team could not even convict Mangum of arson when she was represented with a featherweight defense in the 2010 trumped up case… so it knows that it stands no chance to prevail now that the extent of their conspiracy has been exposed. Even with the defense expert witness refusing to put a report in writing, the defense attorneys withholding exculpatory evidence from her, and Mangum representing herself, prosecutors have come to the realization that they cannot prevail at trial, and that their only hope is to strike a plea deal with Mangum… and then leave it up to the media to spin the story to Mangum’s detriment (something with which it is very experienced). Durham
If a plea deal is offered to Mangum, I would advise her not to accept it, because like James Arthur Johnson, the ill-effects will follow her for the rest of her life… only with a tenfold greater intensity. It will be something, as in Johnson’s case, that no pardon could possibly remedy.
Fact is that Crystal Mangum was a domestic violence victim of an intoxicated Reginald Daye (who had physically beaten her approximately one week prior to the self-defense stabbing). On that fateful April 2011 morning, Daye repeatedly punched her in the face and head, pulled out her hair, spit on her, and broke down the door when she sought refuge from him there. Then, after bringing in steak knives from the kitchen he proceeded to throw them at her, and in his final action against her, Daye placed his hands on her throat and began strangling her. It was at this point that Mangum grabbed a knife within reach and stabbed Daye once… causing him to relent in his attack and allow her to make an escape.
I submit that after undergoing such a terrorizing ordeal Crystal Mangum should not have been charged and arrested for acting in self-defense and that she should not have to accept a plea deal in order to be released from an incarceration with no foreseeable end. As of the date of this blog posting, Ms. Mangum has served 646 days in jail, and a court date has yet to be assigned. Part of this lengthy incarceration is to force her to accept a plea deal and that is why her case has moved through the courts at a glacial pace… with inactivity on the prosecution and defense side. Even Mangum’s attempts to file motions in representing herself have been delayed without cause.
Bottom line is that Crystal Mangum will prevail, as long as she stays strong and doesn’t give in to the slick deals by the prosecution. I am sure that if James Arthur Johnson had it to do over again, he would not have accepted a plea deal and would have fought for his innocence. A plea deal might be a good thing for the guilty, but it is a raw deal for the innocent. nn