LUMBERTON, N.C. (WBTW) – Daniel Green, one of two men convicted for the murder of Michael Jordan’s father in 1993, has received different treatment in prison because of who his charges are connected to, according to his attorney.
“[Prison] is hard if you committed the crime,” said Chris Mumma, the executive director of the North Carolina Center on Actual Innocence, and Green’s attorney. “It’s unbelievably hard if you’re in there for something that you didn’t do. I hope people can imagine how difficult that must be, and then to be there for something you didn’t do as the murderer of Michael Jordan’s father, that is a whole different ballgame.”
Here’s the court narrative – James Jordan was traveling from Charlotte to Wilmington when he stopped on the side of the road in Lumberton to take a nap. Green and Larry Demery, both teens at the time, then shot and killed him during a robbery. They took his phone and the NBA jewelry gifted to him by his son, and then dumped the body in a swamp in McColl, where it was found 11 days later.
Mumma said that Green has admitted to his involvement in the case, like wearing the jewelry and helping to move the body, but didn’t kill him. She also said that he was not in the car and doesn’t know who did the shooting.
After authorities learned that Demery was willing to testify against Green, she said the investigation then focused on Green being the shooter. She thinks Demery, and others, know a lot more about what happened that night than they’ve admitted.
“There’s so much to this case that people do not know,” she said. “I do not believe James Jordan was sleeping on the side of the road when he was attacked. I do not believe that for a minute.”
Green and Demery were sentenced to life in prison in 1996.
Green got in contact with the North Carolina Center on Actual Innocence, which reviewed the case. Green had heard about a different case that was overturned due to problems with the state crime lab, and argued there were similarities to his own conviction.
The more Mumma looked into his claims, the more problems she found with the investigation and trial.
“This case is a bear of a case,” she said. “There’s a lot of information, there’s a lot of conflict, there’s a lot of pressure.”
She’s been his counsel since 2016.
“There’s so many red flags in this case, it’s hard to narrow them down,” Mumma said.
She said that Green had ineffective counsel from the beginning, and that his lawyers made the mistake of trying to be forensic and ballistic experts during the trial. His team was also unable to pivot with new information they received during the trial, and alibi witnesses were not thoroughly investigated.
“I think the investigation was flawed from the beginning, and we see this a lot where you have a tunnel-vision investigation, and law enforcement kind of decides which tunnel they want to go down,” Mumma said. “And, from there, there’s biased investigation interrogations, and in this case, they were going to figure out which one of the boys is more likely to testify against the other.
There’s been some recent movement to overturn his sentence. In November, the state’s court of appeals sent the decision to deny an evidentiary hearing back to the trial judge. The center is still waiting on the judge’s opinion, and has filed a formal motion asking for a status conference.
Mumma said it’s been a long road, and that the justice system is flawed when it comes to post conviction. She said the claims haven’t been fully addressed in 22 years, and that it’s been difficult for Green to remain in prison for a crime she said he didn’t commit.
“Daniel is a very, very smart, very reflective person,” she said. “He’s very frustrated, and I completely understand his frustration. I know if I was in Daniel’s situation, I would not be doing nearly as well as Daniel is doing.”
Demery was granted parole in 2020 and was scheduled to be released in 2023. That was pushed back before the parole agreement was “terminated” in December — a few weeks after he committed additional infractions. His next parole review will be in 2023.
North Carolina Department of Public Safety records show that Demery had committed four infractions in prison in 2021 – two of which happened a few weeks before the termination announcement. Three of the infractions were for substance possession, and one was for possessing “no threat” contraband. The records do not elaborate on what items he was found with.
In total, Demery has 19 prison infractions on his record. Green has 101. His most recent infractions are from Feb. 20, where he is listed as disobeying an order and using profane language.
Of the 101, 40 of his infractions are for either disobeying orders or using profane language. Others are for accusations like possessing a weapon, seven are for fighting, five are for possessing “no threat” contraband, among others.
The infractions date back to 1991, when he was incarcerated for assault with a deadly weapon with the intent to kill, inflicting serious injury. Eleven were before 1993, the year of James Jordan’s murder.
The 1991 sentence was later vacated after being ruled as self defense, and his record should have been cleared of the infractions that happened during the time he was incarcerated for the charge, according to Mumma.
Mumma points to a court order stating that because Demery testified against Green, that he must be given protection – something Mumma said she’s never seen before in relation to someone who has been convicted.
The infractions for fighting, she said, are because Green has been targeted due to the high-profile victim.
“Sometimes I tell Daniel, ‘I understand that these things are happening to you, I see this happening to other people,’” she said. “But Daniel’s received much harsher treatment, because of whose case it is. You know, Michael Jordan, his father, they’re held in very, very, very high regard. And anything that hurts Michael Jordan, his fans feel.”
Green wasn’t the shooter, she said, but is facing the consequences of that reputation.
“I think, given what Daniel has faced, for the time he has been incarcerated for this murder that he did not commit, it’s kind of amazing that he’s limited to the infractions he has,” Mumma said.
She said Green was placed in segregation for two months after being accused of having drugs in his cell. The substance were later proven to be coffee sweetener. Other infractions can sound misleading – his two count of “sexual acts” might mean that he accidentally exposed himself, and a “weapon” can be a needle used to patch his prison uniform. “Assault with a deadly weapon” could include if a guard gets between him and another prisoner during a fight and gets punched, according to Mumma.
Infractions like using profane language and disobeying orders, are more discretionary, and can be racked up if a guard has a “vendetta” against an inmate. While some inmates constantly curse and aren’t punished, Green doesn’t get the same leeway, according to Mumma, who said that he also tends to be placed in prisons that are known for having a tough environment.
She said Green’s first interaction with the justice system for the self-defense incident made him distrust the justice system. During that wrongful incarceration, Demery was the only one who kept in touch, which led to a sense of loyalty toward Demery.
“I think Daniel honestly was trying to help his best friend because he thought his best friend had gotten involved in a bad drug deal with a bad drug dealer,” said Mumma, who also notes that Green would have never thought the man was Michael Jordan’s father, either.
Other factors came into play, according to Mumma. Green is Black. Demery is American Indian.
“Racism is absolutely a factor in this case,” she said, which included the use of racial slurs used in the investigation, and witnesses making comments like “They all look the same to me.”
Operation Tarnished Badge, a federal corruption probe into the Robeson County Sheriff’s Office in the 2000s, led to 22 convictions, including the then-sheriff and his son. Charges include pirating satellite tv signals, kidnapping, perjury and drug trafficking.
A five-part docuseries, Moment of Truth, dives into the case and Green’s claims of innocence. Mumma believes the series will lead to more people understanding his cause.
“The interest in true crime certainly has brought some exposure to the fact, not opinions, but supported facts in this case,” she said.