It was a celebrity crime that shocked Chicago and the nation in the summer of 1993. The father of the world’s most famous athlete was gunned down in what was described as a roadside robbery in North Carolina.
Now, Daniel Green, one of two then-teenagers convicted in the crime, is fighting for a new trial in the murder of James Jordan, the father of Michael Jordan, saying in filed court documents that much of the evidence used in the trial is questionable.
“I think they should look at the evidence. If you look at the evidence, the evidence is going to speak for itself - that there is no evidence that I killed James Jordan, because I didn’t,” Green said.
Trial Judge Gregory Weeks sentenced Green to life in prison in 1996. His childhood friend, Larry Demery, got 40 years after testifying in court that Green was the trigger man. Green was 18 at the time. He is now 43.
“I regret what I did. You know I was a kid,” Green told NBC 5 in his first Chicago television interview since the case entered national spotlight.
Green said he’s sorry for his part in covering up the crime but always insisted he was not the one who killed Jordan. Now, Green said he has a new lawyer, and new evidence to prove it.
“Before we get to the evidence, let’s talk about what you say you did and did not do that night,” Stafford asked Green during the interview.
“Did you help dispose of the body?” Stafford asked.
“Yes,” Green said.
“Did you take possession of his jewelry at some point?” Stafford asked.
“Yes,” Green said.
“Did you shoot James Jordan?” Stafford asked.
“No,” Green said.
Demery testified in court that that Green did shoot Jordan in Jordan’s red Lexus at 1:30 a.m. on July 23, 1993, on the side of Highway 74 in Lumberton, North Carolina. But Green’s attorney has three people who have signed affidavits swearing Green was at a mobile home until 4 a.m. It was then that Green said in court filings Demery showed up agitated and upset.
“He said ‘Listen, I went out there and we had an altercation. This guy tried me and I shot him,’” Green said Demery told him.
Green admits to helping Demery dump the body in a swamp but said Demery told him the victim was a drug dealer, not an innocent man napping in his car.
“I don’t think I realized (it was James Jordan) until maybe two days before our arrest. It was on the news,” Green said.
Green’s attorney, Chris Mumma of the North Carolina Center on Actual Innocence, said she “wasn’t always convinced.”
“I knew exactly what everybody else in the world knew,” Mumma said.
Mumma said she was skeptical about Green’s claims until her team reviewed the evidence, which she said proves Demery’s testimony was a lie and the investigation was severely flawed.
“The more I read about the case, the more I looked at the file, the more I not only became convinced that Daniel is innocent, but there was a tremendous amount of corruption in the way that he was convicted,” Mumma said.
But her client looked far from innocent on a tape after the murder taken by a stolen video camera in which he’s rapping about violence and wearing the NBA All-Star ring and gold watch Michael Jordan gave his father before his death.
“It does not make it look like [I was bragging]. That’s the way people chose to characterize it,” Green said.
At the time the tape was taken, Green said he had no idea the victim was James Jordan. But the prosecution stands by Green’s conviction saying he was the one in control that night, had a history of violence and was in possession of the spoils of the crime.
Robeson County District Attorney Johnson Britt, who prosecuted the case, said it was the single biggest case that he ever tried. He characterized it as one based on “strong circumstantial evidence,” saying, “Daniel Green was in control.”
“He drove the car with the body,” Britt said. “He drove to the location to dump the body. He made the calls. The .38 was found at his house. He rapped on the videotape with the stolen jewelry.”
Britt said the recent post-trial motion is, “grasping at straws” and he hopes that a hearing will put an end to the “post-conviction circus.”
The North Carolina Attorney General’s office is reviewing the court filing and has not yet made a decision on whether to grant Green a new trial.