Episode 10: “Revelations”
Cliff Bumgardner: If you’re just starting this podcast, go back and listen from episode 1, it’ll make a lot more sense.
Amanda Lamb: On New Years Eve, 2018, attorney Chris Mumma drove to the Scotland Correctional Institution in the southern part of North Carolina, right next to Robeson County. Built in the 2000s, the prison is a sprawling concrete fortress that almost looks like a military installation.
Mumma was there to talk to Larry Demery. It’s his testimony she believes is responsible for putting her client, Daniel Green, in prison for life. She’d met with Larry once before, but nothing came of it, he wouldn’t talk about the case. The conversation was brief.
But this time, something had changed.
Chris Mumma: Larry was much more talkative, much more receptive…
Amanda: Mumma says she and Larry talked about a lot of things. Larry wanted her to look into a friend’s case in exchange for the meeting, which she did. She also tried to tug on his heartstrings a little, told him she had visited his mom.
Chris Mumma: Eventually we talked about whether what he said at trial was true, and he admitted to me that it was not, that his testimony at trial was not truthful, that he was coached by law enforcement, um, that he was being threatened with the death penalty and being told that Daniel had blamed it all on Larry, and that made Larry angry.
Amanda Lamb: Did he tell you what the truth was?
Chris Mumma: He, um, he did not go into the truth. He said he did not want to go into the truth at that time, but he would testify at a hearing.
Amanda Lamb: And what would he testify to regarding Daniel?
Chris Mumma: He said he did not see Daniel Green shoot James Jordan.
Amanda: From WRAL Studios, this is Follow the Truth: The story of the James Jordan Murder, and the man who says he didn’t do it. I’m Amanda Lamb.
Amanda: You heard that right: According to Chris Mumma, Larry Demery, the state’s star witness in Daniel Green’s trial, admitted to lying on the stand.
According to Mumma, Larry said his testimony was coached in order to fit the states’ version of the case:
Chris Mumma: Then they said, we need you there. Telling you, seeing, telling us what you see, we need you seeing him. Shoot James Jordan, we need you seeing James Jordan sleeping and not having a gun.
Amanda: It’s important to mention here: According to Mumma, Larry hasn’t said he killed James Jordan. He didn’t tell her anything other than the fact that he didn’t see Daniel do it. He stopped short of incriminating himself, and he had a good reason.
Chris Mumma: He thinks he’s getting out of prison soon. He’s not going to do anything to ruin his chances at that. He has kids. He has a mom. He, he wants to see his family. And he would want assurances that his chances of getting out of prison are not going to be impacted if he comes forward with a statement that’s different from his testimony at trial.
Amanda: Mumma says Larry told her he would be willing to testify and clear Daniel’s name, if the state would grant him immunity in the case. But the state doesn’t just dole out protections like that.
So after her conversation with Larry, Mumma wrote up her own sworn affidavit recounting the details of their conversation and his admission.
Then she sat on it. At this point, in early 2019, Mumma was waiting to hear if the courts would grant Daniel an evidentiary hearing in response to his motion for appropriate relief: his MAR. If they got the hearing, Larry’s admission was going to be her secret weapon.
But then, in March she got some bad news in the form of an email from the Judge’s office.
Chris Mumma: Uh, this is an email dated March 6th of 2019. The email reads, the following is judge Gilchrist’s ruling in the above referenced matter. “Defendant’s motion for an evidentiary hearing is denied.” Denied, all capital letters. “Defendant’s MAR, including all amendments and supplements, is denied in its entirety.” Um, and ironically at the bottom it says “justice for all.”
Amanda: For Mumma and Daniel, the email was the last thing they expected…
Chris Mumma: I was shocked. Really shocked. Uh, Daniel is, uh, really giving me a hard time because I basically said there’s no way you’re not getting an evidentiary hearing, on at least some of these claims, and I would have bet anything, uh, that, that was the case.
Um, I think, I still think it’s clear under the law that, um, I mean the law says the judge shall grant an evidentiary hearing if there’s questions of fact, and there’s absolutely questions of fact in this case.
Amanda: Mumma realized it was time to use her secret weapon.
Chris Mumma: After hearing that, that very same day. Uh, we filed a motion for reconsideration with my affidavit stating that, um, Larry Demery had admitted to me that he lied on the stand.
Amanda: Two days later, the judge denied that motion too.
It took months for the judge to release his official ruling, the reasoning behind the denial. But eventually:
News Reporter: The man convicted of killing Michael Jordan’s father will not get another trial
New Reporter: And that’s the decision handed down this week by a superior court judge. He denied Daniel Green’s request [fades under]
Amanda: On December 31, 2019, a year to the day after Chris Mumma met with Larry Demery in prison, Judge Winston Gilchrist signed his full order. It’s essentially 83 pages of NO — the court’s official word on all the evidence Mumma has presented in Daniel Green’s case.
In the ruling, Gilchrist takes on each of the points from the MAR one by one, denying them in the same excruciating detail in which they were presented.
Ultimately, the ruling says: nothing Mumma has presented to the court constitutes new evidence, the bar they had to clear to get an evidentiary hearing.
Chris Mumma: The judge said, I’m not even gonna hear the evidence. So there’s a big difference. It’s not like we had this evidentiary hearing where all the evidence was presented and the judge got to evaluate questions of fact. He didn’t even want to hear them.
Amanda: As far as Mumma’s meeting with Larry, and his recanting, the judge says quote: “Defendant fails to show that the statement attributed to co-defendant Demery in Ms. Mumma’s affidavit is probably true. It is directly contrary to co-defendant Demery’s extensive sworn testimony at trial and other corroborating evidence of defendant’s involvement in the robbery and murder of Mr. James Jordan.”
Gilchrist says that at the end of the day, there’s no proof that if Larry had testified differently during the trial that the outcome of the case would have been any different. Basically, if Larry’s testimony was questionable, that should’ve been raised at trial.
But Mumma says, that wasn’t an option.
Chris Mumma: Daniel’s claims should never have taken 20 years to be heard. Um, and that was not his fault. That was absolutely the fault of the justice system. It was the fault of the defense attorneys, uh, who were appointed to the case. It was the fault of the prosecution for dragging their feet on turning over evidence that should have been turned over. It was not Daniel Green’s fault that took so long.
Amanda: I talked to Daniel on the phone the day the ruling came out. He wanted to make a public statement, but he was upset, jumping from topic to topic as fast as his brain would take him.
Daniel Green: I was convicted and incarcerated for crimes I did not commit. This criminal justice system has victimized my family and my people for decades. I’m not surprised.
Amanda: At a glance, it’s hard to understand how something that seems as big as Larry Demery recanting his testimony wouldn’t at least get the courts to take another look at the case. There’s a clear disconnect between Mumma’s bombshell assertion that Larry Demery lied and the dismissive legal response.
And this one hits at one of the core things for me in this case: the law and it’s version of justice is often very different from the way we actually think about right and wrong.
Legally speaking, Mumma’s affidavit about what Larry told her is complicated. For one thing, it came from Mumma, not Larry himself. In the ruling, Judge Gilchrist said it was unlikely the affidavit would even be admissible in court.
Prosecutor Johnson Britt goes one step further; he doubts the legitimacy of Larry’s alleged admission altogether.
Johnson Britt: I mean, number one, I don’t believe it. I don’t think it has uh, I think it’s just words on a piece of paper. Um, if it’s to have any real value, it would have to be an affidavit from Larry Demery.
Amanda: And as for Larry’s request for immunity. Well, frankly, Britt finds it pretty far-fetched.
Amanda Lamb: He said, basically, you know, I am up for parole, I’m not going to mess anything up. And she said, well, what if you had immunity? And he said, well, if I had immunity, I might do it…
Johnson Britt: [laughs]
Amanda: Britt’s not alone. Larry’s trial attorney, Hugh Rogers, also has some reservations about his former client’s meeting with Chris Mumma.
Hugh Rogers: Well I’ve got a concern that Larry was without representation when she interviewed him. Of course, he had the right to talk to her or not talk to her, whatever his desire was. I wasn’t there. I don’t know what he told her, if anything. Um, I’m not saying she’s fabricating anything. I mean, I wasn’t there. I don’t know.
Amanda: But remember, Mumma is not the only one who claims Larry told her Daniel didn’t shoot James Jordan. She’s just the only attorney saying this. Journalist Connee Brayboy also submitted a sworn affidavit saying Larry not only told her Daniel didn’t do it, but Larry admitted to her that he was the shooter.
And while Larry has been quiet publicly since his arrest, Mumma says that hasn’t been the case behind bars. She says she has affidavits from several inmates who say Larry told them Daniel wasn’t there when James Jordan was shot.
Chris Mumma: And you know, you hear that an inmate gives a statement and it doesn’t have much credibility and people say, well, they’re in, they’re in prison, so they’re not believable. But when you have this many, you really, they add up.
Amanda: Despite all these voices speaking up, really the only one that could actually make a difference is Larry himself. And even Daniel thinks it’s unlikely that will ever happen.
Daniel Green: What they’re trying to do is they’re trying to make people say, Oh, well, you know, we have Larry’s testimony and now in order to reverse his conviction, Larry has to tell the truth. You know? So what if Larry decides not to tell? What interest does Larry have to tell the truth? And now his parole is dependent on him pretty much like sticking to the script. So, I don’t think it’s realistic to think that Larry’s going to come forward and say, you know what, y’all, I actually did kill this man and I, and I lied and tried to help send this man to death row. That’s my best friend that I dragged into this.
Amanda: But Larry coming forward, agreeing to say publicly what Mumma and Daniel say he’s been telling people privately, would be key in whatever comes next in Daniel’s case. And then this happened:
News Anchor: A major development in a high-profile case today, one of the two men convicted of killing Michael Jordan’s father has been granted parole. WRAL’s Amanda Lamb has covered this case for more than a decade and she joins us live… [fade out]
Amanda: In August of 2020, word came down: Larry Demery had been granted parole. The deal was he had to complete a pre-release program and keep his nose clean, and if he did that, he would be released from prison on August 6, 2023.
Since then, there’s been a new development in his parole journey. In the summer of 2021, it was announced that Larry’s parole was delayed until August 2024-a full year later. While the prison system won’t comment on the specifics surrounding the delay, they do tell us it relates to his infractions while in prison that took place in April of this year. Public records show that Larry has two infractions on his record from April-one from having “no-threat contraband” which is basically anything inmates are not allowed to have that’s not considered dangerous, and “substance possession.”
One thing’s clear…whether it happens in 2023, or 2024, Larry Demery is likely to be free in the not-so-distant future…
Chris Mumma was surprised by the announcement. I talked to her on the phone the day the initial parole news came out.
Chris Mumma: One, I have no doubt that his testimony was false. Um, that Daniel Green was not the shooter in this case. I am, I’m 100% confident of that. But in addition, I have no doubt that Demery was told before the trial, “if you testify to what we want you to say, we will sentence you at a reduced level.” Um, and that deal… it’s against the law to have a deal like that and not disclose it to the other side.
Amanda: But Johnson Britt says there was no deal, that this is just the system doing what it was designed to do.
Johnson Britt: He’s being paroled because the law provides for it. Yeah, they, they have the discretion to keep someone in prison for life. Um, but they, under the sentencing guidelines at the time this murder occurred, parole was a possibility for anyone sentenced to life in prison. And that includes Daniel Green. So, um, Yeah. I’m not surprised that Larry got out. I won’t be surprised if one day, if Daniel Green doesn’t get paroled, but Daniel Green has another 28 years on top of the life sentence that he has to serve.
Amanda: It can be difficult to understand how two guys convicted of the same crime could get different sentences or treatment when it comes to their parole. But it’s worth remembering, while Larry and Daniel were convicted of the same thing– first degree murder– the circumstances around their convictions were very different.
Most obviously, Larry has admitted to being there when James Jordan was killed — something Daniel has not done and will not do.
Plus, Larry took a plea, he helped the prosecution in their case by testifying against Daniel. And not only did that get him a lighter sentence for his previous crimes, it’s also the kind of thing the parole commission looks at when evaluating an inmate for release.
Johnson Britt: I mean, I spent 30 years as a prosecutor. I saw a number of people who were convicted of murder and sentenced to life who were paroled. And you know, if, if Larry screws up they will revoke his parole, that’s the consequence. That’s every parolee’s case.
Amanda: Still, Mumma is convinced Larry’s parole isn’t just business as usual. She says it’s just another thing that proves the deck was stacked against Daniel from the beginning.
Chris Mumma: I think there’s been a continuous injustice in denying that there ever was a deal when it’s just so blatantly obvious. From the facts — facts, not opinions, but facts in this case. And then this, this outcome on the parole, it just cinches it.
Amanda: But however you look at it, one thing is obvious: If Larry wasn’t likely to talk before, he’s definitely not going to now. The road before him is clear. If he keeps his head down and does what he’s supposed to, in just a few years, he’ll be out.
But what about Daniel? What does he make of Larry’s parole?
That’s coming up after the break.
Amanda: It’s been 28 years since James Jordan went missing. Since then, we’ve learned a lot about what happened on the side of the road in a sleepy little North Carolina town. But much of that night — maybe the most important parts — remain a mystery.
These are the question marks that have fixated so many people — myself included — for all these years: the evidence, the clues, the who-said-what-and-when of it all. Then there’s the hearings and the affidavits and the mountains of legal documents. There’s always another person to talk to, another fact to check…
And in the midst of it all, it’s easy to forget that wherever this story goes, it began with a tragedy. A life needlessly taken for reasons we’ll never truly understand.
That’s where it starts. But lately, working on this episode, I’ve had to think about where it ends. And the truth is, we all want stories to have a nice, neat ending tied up in a bow. But that’s the movies, not real life. In the real world, stories go on as long as there’s someone to remember them. For the Jordan family, there will always be another missed birthday or anniversary. For Daniel Green’s family, another hearing or appeal.
For now, here’s where things stand:
On July 30 of this year Daniel’s attorney, Chris Mumma, filed an appeal to Judge Winston’s Gilchrist’s January 2020 order that denied Daniel an evidentiary hearing. She’s basically arguing that the state’s case against Daniel, well the facts they presented don’t match their own story…
Chris Mumma: Now you look at the physical evidence, and the physical evidence doesn’t match up with the narrative they created.
Amanda: Mumma filed with the North Carolina Court of Appeals. She is asking the higher court to reverse Gilchrist’s ruling and grant Daniel a hearing to present what they believe are questions of fact in the case…a hearing that could lead to a new trial for Daniel.
Chris Mumma: He has said from the beginning he is innocent and I believe he is innocent.
Amanda: We’ve told you about most of Mumma’s legal arguments surrounding Daniel’s case before–but to recap, her three main arguments in this lengthy appeal relate to new evidence in the case, a violation of Daniel’s due process rights, and ineffective legal counsel at trial.
Chris Mumma: I’ve been diagnosed as pathologically hopeful.
Amanda: It could be several months before the Court of Appeals makes a decision…if they deny Daniel a hearing again, Mumma has the option of going to the North Carolina Supreme Court.
Chris Mumma: I truly believe he has been denied justice since the day he was arrested.
Amanda: In the meantime, Daniel has picked up some pretty strong support from a lot of different people and high-profile organizations…most notably the North Carolina NAACP. Here’s their president T. Anthony Spearman.
T. Anthony Spearman: I do believe that an injustice is being razed on this young man, uh, who I, I do not believe was there at the time and is telling the truth about all of that.
Amanda: After speaking with Daniel on multiple occasions over several months, Spearman has thrown his support and the support of the state NAACP to Daniel, and vowed to help in whatever way he can.
T. Anthony Spearman: Daniel has had a time of cruelty, cruelty being levied on him through the years that he’s been incarcerated and deserves a day in court to really have things heard.
Amanda: This is a very big deal because a group as significant and powerful as the NAACP well they don’t just give their support to anyone–they vet every case to make sure it is in line with their mission…that it involves someone they truly believe in.
T. Anthony Spearman: The scrutiny that I personally apply to situations such as these is, is very deep and wide, and it’s been learned over a lifetime of experience.
Amanda: Daniel Green is set to have his first parole review in October of this year–2021. Frankly, It’s hard to imagine the parole board releasing him: One of the most basic considerations for parole is whether the convicted person has admitted to their crimes and expressed remorse. Daniel has made it very clear that while he freely admits to disposing of James Jordan’s body and has deep remorse for that… he will not admit to what he says he didn’t do, which is killing James Jordan. Daniel’s legal team, including Chris Mumma, is appealing Judge Gilchrist’s ruling. All the way to the Supreme Court if they have to.
Prosecutor Johnson Britt retired as Robeson County’s District Attorney in January of 2019. He still practices law and he keeps up with the case a bit. After all, it was the biggest case of his career, the case of a lifetime. He says he stands by everything that happened to this day.
Johnson Britt: Daniel Green he’s a smart person. He doesn’t necessarily know what the truth is. He’s very loose with the truth. He is, I would describe him as overtly personal. He wants to be the center of attention. He did not and never will acknowledge what he did. He runs from the truth. He’s still running from the truth today.
Amanda: In April of 2020, ESPN launched their series The Last Dance, about Michael Jordan’s final season with the Chicago Bulls. The series briefly touched on the murder of his father and the influence it had on Michael’s first retirement – it’s one of the few times Michael has spoken publicly about his father’s murder. And it created yet another wave of online sleuths digging into the case. It’s rehashed a lot of the old conspiracy theories surrounding the murder, but it’s also brought attention to Daniel’s legal battle.
In April of this year, 2021, Capitol Broadcasting Company, the parent company of WRAL Studios, which makes this podcast released a five-part documentary series called Moment of Truth. Like this podcast, it also dug into Daniel’s case. The docuseries really put a major spotlight on the case as it was streamed around the world on I-M-D-B-TV and Amazon Prime.
It’s too soon to say what, if any, effect that will have on Daniel’s case, but Chris Mumma hopes any new attention will push the Jordans to take an interest in it, to listen to Daniel.
Chris Mumma: He does have regrets about his role in dragging out the closure for them and, uh, them not knowing what had happened. He feels responsible for that because, um, if he had come, come forward right away, speculation wouldn’t have grown as much as it did.
Um, but the other is he, he wants them to look at the evidence, look at the facts, not just trust the state’s version of things.
Amanda: While getting an audience with the Jordans is not the same as getting the case back into court, there’s no doubt that their opinion could carry a lot of weight.
My first letter from Daniel Green arrived in the mail more than ten years ago now. Since then I’ve learned a lot about him. We’ve spent hours talking on the phone, especially in recent months. Sometimes I ask him about the case, going over the same details we’ve talked about again and again, but mostly I just listen to this story, to his story.
Daniel Green: Unfortunately, I understand that this, this case is why you’re talking to me in this case is why, you know, whatever people think. But this case is not who I am.
Amanda: Daniel is an interesting guy — he’s complicated, cantankerous, but also likeable, affable, some might even call him charming. He was born into a hard world and made a lot of bad choices, but even in prison he’s tried to educate himself, to be better, stay connected with his family.
I’ll be honest, I like Daniel. He’s grown on me over the years, and reminds me how strange the life of a journalist is, how the people we cover often become more than just the subjects of our stories. But liking Daniel isn’t a reason to decide he is innocent — not liking him isn’t a reason to decide he is guilty. That’s not the way truth works.
Reporting on this story has been a lot like standing on shifting sand. There were days when I would feel one way about the case, and then, boom, something else would come up to completely derail that confidence and change my point of view. And it happened again and again and again… And you might have had that same experience.
Many times I’ve asked myself, why are we telling this story? What is it about Daniel Green that I think the world should know? What have I taken away over ten years that I want to leave you with after ten episodes?
What I keep coming back to is this: I wasn’t there, I don’t know what happened that night, all I have to go on is Daniel’s word. What I do know is there’s a guy who has spent more than half of his life in prison for something he says he did not do. And I believe we as a society have a responsibility to listen to that person, regardless of how we feel about the case.
And recently, covering the wave of protests and the reckoning around racism in our country, I’ve thought about Daniel’s case a lot. He says you can’t detach what happened to him from the systemic racism we see in so many facets of the world.
Daniel Green: I just hope that somebody would recognize that what type of case I have, don’t think all of those, all those issues didn’t happen in my case. It happened even more so in my case when you have people that have a motivation to convict you regardless of whether it’s true or not. You see what I’m saying? So that’s what I would just like people to think about. Like yeah, is it possible that this dude received a wrong trial or that things were violated or things happened whether it was through racism, classism or whatever. Most definitely, it played a role in it.
Amanda: Daniel Green believes he never got a fair shake in the eyes of the law or in the court of public opinion. And look, I can’t give Daniel a new trial. Only a judge can do that. But what I can do is share his story — as fairly and accurately as possible.
And why it’s this story and not any of the countless other people in prison asking for a second chance, all I can say is Daniel’s story grabbed me more than a decade ago, and I haven’t been able to let it go.
Operator: This is a pre-paid call from
Daniel Green: [recorded] Daniel Green
Operator: An inmate at [fades under]
Amanda Lamb: The day after Larry Demery’s parole was announced, I spoke to Daniel on the phone. I asked him if he was angry at the news, angry at Larry.
Daniel Green: Well, no, I’m going to tell you why. And I thought about it because. First of all, like, I know that he lied and that’s reality. And I know that he lied on me and I know that he killed James Jordan. That’s reality. But as a prisoner, you know, uh, I think everybody deserves a chance, especially someone who was that young.
Amanda: As for his own parole, Daniel says that’s not what he’s focused on.
Daniel Green: My fight is to prove that I’m innocent in this case. And the only people that I’m truly concerned about believing that is, is, uh, James Jordan’s family, and his friends, um, because they’re the ones who lost somebody. [fades out]
Amanda: Daniel once told me he believed fame was the reason he’s behind bars. And he might be right. It’s possible that had James Jordan not been the victim, the John Doe found in the swamp might never have been identified. And there might not have been as much pressure to solve the case.
Beyond that, if Daniel had been the one to talk first, maybe he would’ve gotten the plea, and he’d now be the one with a roadmap out of prison. But Daniel says, telling on Larry, it was never an option for him.
Daniel Green: And, um, and that’s…
Operator: You have 60 seconds remaining.
Daniel Green: You know, the way I was raised, with all my faults, and with all the faults that come from being raised the way I was raised. Like, I would never do that. I would never ever sit there and try to, uh you know, place something on someone like that. And I’m just trying to do, like I said, I’m trying to do the right thing, and some things you’re learning and when you’re raising yourself in an environment like this it’s very difficult because you make more mistakes than not. If you’re trying to raise, you know like if you’re trying to rise above your environment. And uh,
Operator: You have 30 seconds remaining.
Daniel Green: You know, it’s all a process I guess, we’re all learning, you know and we’re all growing.
Amanda: This case’s connection to Michael Jordan–it’s really the only reason anyone is still talking about it. So, the thing Daniel blames for his conviction might also be the thing that gives him another chance at freedom.
Daniel Green: And like I said, as a prisoner I firmly believe that a person who is not going to get out of prison and commit crime deserves to be free.
Amanda: In the eyes of the law, it’s a privilege Daniel hasn’t earned yet, but he’ll keep trying. And I’ll keep listening, as long as he has a story to tell.
Daniel Green: Alright, alright thank you Amanda. Thank you for listening. Alright bye bye.
Amanda: Follow the Truth is written by me, Amanda Lamb, and Cliff Bumgardner.
Cliff also produces the show.
Shelly Leslie is our executive producer.
The show is edited and mixed by Wilson Sayre.
Our production manager is Anita Normanly.
Original music is by George Hage and Lee Rosevere.
Additional reporting by Clay Johnson, Jay Jennings and the many other WRAL-TV journalists whose coverage you hear throughout the story. The show is represented by Melinda Morris Zanoni and Legacy Talent Entertainment with branding and digital marketing by Capitol B Creative. Special thanks to Dave Beasing.
Thanks so much for listening.