A man convicted of killing Michael Jordan’s father said in an interview Friday that he will one day walk free from prison, contending a new report on mistakes at North Carolina’s crime lab shows the evidence against him is falling apart.
Daniel Andre Green told The Associated Press the finding that investigators mishandled lab reports in his case indicates exculpatory evidence was improperly withheld from him. He said he’s been working largely by himself for years to prove he’s innocent of killing James Jordan in 1993, though he admits he helped dispose of the body.
”I’ve always known that I’m walking out of prison,” Green said while sitting at a concrete picnic table in the yard of Harnett Correctional Institution. ”I’ve known that because I’ve believed, ultimately, the truth has to come out.”
Green is trying get his case back in court, having filed a 122-page motion on his own in 2008 that raised questions about how his prosecution was handled. The 35-year-old has studied law books for years and fluently quotes both Latin phrases and North Carolina statutes from memory.
The latest development in Green’s case hinges on blood evidence. A State Bureau of Investigation expert testified at his 1996 trial that she found a small amount of blood in the passenger seat of Jordan’s car. But according to the review released on Wednesday, the SBI found only ”indications” blood was present in an initial test, and four follow-up tests were inconclusive. The report also found flaws in nearly 200 other cases.
Green’s current attorney was already working on an appeal when the report came out, and one of his trial attorneys said he doesn’t think the follow-up blood tests were ever disclosed to the defense.
Green insists he had nothing to do with Jordan’s murder. Declining to discuss too many details on the advice of lawyers, he said that he was not present when Jordan was killed and that he helped cover up the crime because a close friend asked him for help. That friend, Larry Demery, testified at trial that Green fired the shot that killed Jordan.
”I made certain decisions out of loyalty to a friend,” Green said.
He acknowledged several regrets, including some of the most damaging details of the trial: that he helped get rid of Jordan’s body and used some of his possessions, like a car and jewelry. James Jordan’s body was found in a South Carolina swamp.
Michael Jordan, now owner of the Charlotte Bobcats, declined to comment through an assistant.
This week’s SBI report has led state prosecutors to seek a full review of 190 cases, while attorneys in cases not included in the inquest believe the crime lab’s mistakes could help them win new trials. The SBI announced Friday that it is replacing the director of the crime lab. The North Carolina Police Benevolent Association called for a criminal investigation. Green, meanwhile, isn’t so sure about punishing those who made mistakes handling evidence.
”I wouldn’t say they’re bad people,” he said. ”I would say they made bad decisions the same way I’ve made bad decisions. Instead of people just looking to point fingers, which is the easy thing, I’m saying we should get serious … to try to fix the problems and try to get people out of prisons that shouldn’t be in prisons.”
In the 1996 trial that captured the country’s attention, Green’s lawyers questioned the lack of physical and blood evidence. Demery had testified that Green shot Jordan at near point-blank range in the vehicle where Jordan had been sleeping. There was little or no blood found in the car, no conclusive match between what authorities said was the murder weapon and a bullet in James Jordan’s body, nor was there gunshot residue in the car.
Authorities said that weapon was found in Green’s house.
Past attorneys for Green theorized that Demery was the killer and only pleaded guilty to save himself. Demery remains imprisoned for murder and declined an interview.
Green spent years working alone on his innocence claims, and was only recently appointed a new attorney on the strength of his 2008 motion.
”I’m definitely glad that it’s coming out,” Green said. ”I’m glad that people are just getting to see that you can’t blindly trust authority. I’m not saying that you should distrust authority, but I think we should be more critical in the way we examine anything.”