Murder of Michael Jordan’s father returns to court 25 years later
The man convicted in one of North Carolina’s highest-profile murder cases, the 1993 death of Michael Jordan’s father, returned to court Wednesday in a bid to obtain a new trial.
Daniel Green, 43, has repeatedly sought another trial over the past two decades by challenging blood evidence, witness testimony and juror conduct, as well as alleging police corruption.
Superior Court Judge Winston Gilchrist heard from Green’s attorneys and lawyers from the state Attorney General’s Office for three hours Wednesday and said he would rule later on whether to grant Green’s motion for relief.
“Daniel Green is innocent. He is innocent factually, morally and, most important in this courtroom, legally,” said Green’s attorney, Christine Mumma, executive director of the Center on Actual Innocence, which has helped exonerate several wrongly convicted men in recent years.
James Jordan was killed on July 23, 1993, in southeastern North Carolina, and his body was found 11 days later in a South Carolina swamp.
Green and Larry Demery were convicted in March 1996, but Demery testified at their trial that Green was the one who shot Jordan as he slept in his luxury car in Robeson County. Both are now serving life sentences.
Green has maintained that he only helped Demery dispose of a body after a drug deal that went sideways. The two teens then drove around in James Jordan’s Lexus and wore his watch and an NBA All-Star ring he was given by his son.
“He didn’t do it. He wasn’t there. He didn’t know anything about it happening,” Mumma said of Green’s involvement in the killing. “He is completely innocent of the charges he was convicted of.”
Mumma argued that public defender Angus Thompson did a poor job of representing Green during the 1996 trial, noting Thompson has said there was an “intimidation and fear factor” to the case.
“This case was handled differently,” Mumma said, “because the high-profile nature of it.”
Thompson failed to call Green’s alibi witnesses to testify or a ballistics expert or a blood expert, even though the defense had consulted with the experts, she said. One of the bigger failures was not questioning how a hole got in James Jordan’s shirt when medical examiners didn’t find one during the autopsy, she said.
“The state presented no evidence, no explanation for how the hole magically appears,” she said.
Mumma said the defense attorney’s mistakes were compounded by the state withholding some evidence and with tampering to other evidence, such as James Jordan’s shirt.
She cited an example of an interview Robeson County deputies conducted with a local drug dealer during the Jordan investigation. Demery had ties to the dealer and even called him on the night of the murder, but no transcript of the interview was ever turned over to the defense.
“I think there’s no question that he at least deserves a new trial,” she said.
Senior Deputy Attorney General Danielle Elder disputed Mumma’s claims that evidence had been tampered with or withheld. For example, if they knew about the drug dealer’s interview, they should have asked investigators for the transcript, she said.
“I don’t know why there’s a discrepancy [about Jordan’s shirt]. I think the most reasonable answer is that the autopsy missed the hole,” added Special Deputy Attorney General Jonathan Babb.
Elder said all of Mumma’s arguments have been heard before, and none would have changed the guilty verdict against Green.
“The defendant is attempting with this court to relitigate these issues,” she said. “Nothing provided to this court has been inconsistent with his guilt.”
Green said his mistake was helping Demery get rid of the body, but Mumma said he has more than served his time for that crime.
“I’m proud of him for standing up for himself,” said Green’s sister, Eboni Lewis, who attended Wednesday’s court hearing.
“I do apologize for any participation he may have had after the fact, but my brother did not murder James Jordan,” Lewis said. “This has been a fight that’s been going on for so long, and I hope that Daniel can come home soon where he belongs.”