Episode 11 Transcript: “Update: Daniel Green’s First Parole Hearing”
Amanda Lamb: If you just discovered our show, you’ll want to start listening at episode1.
[Phone ringing followed by automated message]
This is a global Tel link prepaid call from “Daniel Green” an inmate at Tabor correctional institution. This call will be monitored and recorded.
Amanda Lamb: I never know when I’ll get a call from Daniel. On this day in August 2020, when he called we talked about Larry Demery being granted parole.
Amanda Lamb: Your first time is October of 2021. I mean, what do you think your chances are?
Daniel Green: Amanda, my fight is to prove that I’m innocent of this case. And the only people that I’m truly concerned about believing that is James Jordan’s family, and his friends, because they were the ones that lost somebody.
Amanda Lamb: At the time, Daniel wasn’t very hopeful that the Parole Commission would seriously consider releasing him for so many reasons…he tells me nothing in this case has been easy from the very beginning because of who he was convicted of killing…so trying to get paroled, it’s no exception to this pattern.
Daniel Green: I already understood that it was going to be a hard fight. I already understood that I was up against something that’s bigger than me.
Amanda Lamb: 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…in this episode Daniel Green’s first shot at parole since he was convicted in 1996.
Amanda Lamb: It is a warm early fall day when I speak to the Reverend Dr. T. Anthony Spearman.
He’s sitting in a chair in the direct sunlight in front of the North Carolina Governor’s Mansion staging a one-man protest to bring attention to the cases of several men who have had their convictions vacated after spending many years in prison, but they haven’t been pardoned by Governor Roy Cooper…being pardoned in North Carolina is important because it allows the wrongfully convicted person to get compensation from the state for their years spent in prison.
Spearman, who headed the state NAACP from October 2017 to October 2021 says these pardons are long overdue. He’s quietly demanding Governor Cooper’s attention.
Anthony Spearman: In this Toyota Camry, crunched up in the car.
Amanda Lamb: Did I mention that he’s protesting by day and sleeping in his car by night? Spearman is passionate about the people he supports, and recently he and the state NAACP announced their support for Daniel. This is a really big deal for Daniel. The NAACP doesn’t just support anyone…they vet the cases they choose to throw their confidence behind.
Anthony Spearman: I’m one who is a sounding board for him, I’m able to listen to him and offer a measure of compassion to him, understanding his plight. Daniel is a person who has never really known the love of a father.
Amanda Lamb: Spearman takes a few minutes away from his protest to speak with me about Daniel as a steady stream of traffic rushes by on the street. Recently, he’s been intimately involved in Daniel’s life and his case. He spoke on Daniel’s behalf to the North Carolina Post-Release Supervision and Parole Commission.
Anthony Spearman: It is incumbent I believe upon them to understand that Daniel’s situation and the case that he’s dealing with has to be looked at with a different set of eyes.
Amanda Lamb: We’ll get to Daniel’s first opportunity for parole in a minute, but first, let’s go back to the year AFTER James Jordan was murdered and talk about how the parole process has changed in North Carolina since then.
In 1994, state lawmakers passed the Structured Sentencing Act, which eliminated parole for felonies. But – anyone who was convicted of a felony that occurred prior to this date, IS still eligible. That’s why Daniel Green and Larry Demery who were both convicted of the 1993 James Jordan murder can be considered.
The Parole Commission is an independent group of four people appointed by the governor. In most cases, they don’t meet with the defendants, or hold formal hearings, but they do allow input on behalf of the convicted person. They also allow input from the victim’s family. But this is a confidential process, so we have no way of knowing if the state or the Jordans weighed in.
Each case is considered on an individual basis every one to three years depending on the crime. Murder cases are reviewed every three years. The majority of the commissioners must agree to grant parole for a person in order for them to be released.
They consider things like what crimes the person is convicted of committing, how they have handled themselves in prison. Do they have a long list of infractions? And what kind of support will they have in the community if they’re released? There is no formal requirement for admission of guilt or remorse, but it certainly helps. After all, the commissioners are human beings, and they want to see that someone has evolved in prison, grown into a respectable citizen who will do well in the outside world.
Few offenders are granted parole on their first go-around — and even if they are, it almost always comes with conditions — like a program called MAPP which stands for the Mutual Agreement Parole Program. It’s essentially a series of steps the person must take in preparation for their release. Academic classes or vocational classes – things to get them ready for the big transition into the community outside the prison walls. A parole date is set in the future…usually more than a year out, and during that time the person must complete these steps and, most importantly, stay out of trouble. Otherwise, their parole date may be pushed out, or even terminated.
Larry Demery, the man who testified against Daniel in exchange for a plea deal was granted parole on his third try. He was assigned to a MAPP program and was scheduled to be released in August 2023. But, he got charged with new infractions – having a substance he was not supposed to have, which usually refers to drugs or alcohol, and having contraband which is basically anything you’re not allowed to have in prison – his parole date was pushed out to August 2024. We don’t know for sure if this was the reason his parole was derailed…but it seems pretty likely that there’s a connection.
Larry and Daniel went to prison for the same crime, so why does Larry get the chance for parole years before Daniel? Well, that plea deal he made with the state reduced time on his sentence for other charges he faced that were in addition to the Jordan murder. Daniel had to serve a longer mandatory amount of time for his additional charges since he didn’t have a deal.
September 21, 2021 – the first parole consideration for Daniel Green is underway.
It was a conference call with the Chairman of the Commission, Bill Fowler. On the call were Daniel’s attorney, Chris Mumma, who is the Executive Director of the North Carolina Center on Actual Innocence, Anthony Spearman who was the President of the NAACP in North Carolina at the time, and a Robeson County pastor named Tom Jones. All spoke in favor of Daniel’s release.
Of course, Mumma led the discussion.
Chris Mumma: So, we wanted to present as strong a case as possible, even though it was the first time and it’s very, very rare for anybody to get any type of parole relief the first time through.
Amanda Lamb: She didn’t want to speak about exactly what was said in that meeting until the commissioners made their decision.
Chris Mumma: I didn’t want to take any missteps or I did not want to take a step that might influence any of the commissioners and their decision.
Amanda Lamb: Although these meetings are not open to the public or the media…I covered the story of what happened behind closed doors for WRAL-TV with some help from one of the people who spoke to the commission, Robeson County Pastor Tom Jones.
WRAL NEWS ARCHIVE SOUND
Amanda Lamb: Daniel Green has been in prison since his arrest in 1993, and for the first time in 28 years, he is eligible to be considered for parole.
Pastor Tom Jones: I advised the board, the one that we talked with that if they would pray about it, uh, and use common sense and don’t be persuaded by politics.
Amanda Lamb:Pastor Tom Jones is from Robeson County…yes, that Robeson County. The place where James Jordan’s murder took place. He’s been talking with Daniel for about five years. They’ve become good friends. Jones considers himself a father figure to Daniel.
Tom Jones: And I believed every word he said, because he acknowledged the mistakes he had made. And he was sorry for that. But, uh, the actual murder, his friend turned his back on him.
Amanda Lamb: Jones spoke with me a few hours after that conference call with the parole commissioner. He told me the thing that convinced him to get more involved with Daniel’s case…including speaking to the Parole Commission…was watching the docu-series about the case called Moment of Truth. The 5-part series was co-produced by Capitol Broadcasting Company – the parent company of WRAL Studios that produces this podcast. The docu-series is still available all over the world on the Amazon streaming service IMDB-TV
Tom Jones: That just solidified my belief that he was innocent, after having watched that, and I called as many people as I possibly could, including the president of the local NAACP. And he contacted the state president.
Anthony Spearman: I know that he’s innocent.
Amanda Lamb: Anthony Spearman said one of his main goals was not only to share Daniel’s truth, but to explain how the stigma of WHO he was convicted of killing has followed him for decades.
Anthony Spearman: He was caught up in something, and so as a result of that they began labeling him, they began profiling him to a very large degree that has stuck with him the rest of his life.
Amanda Lamb: Take for example Daniel’s infractions while in prison – there are 99. They mostly involve profane language, disobeying orders, fighting…which Spearman says makes sense because Daniel entered prison with a target on his back. Those infractions on his record are important since good behavior in prison is something the Parole Commission takes into consideration. By contrast Larry Demery has just seventeen infractions on his prison record.
Spearman told the parole commissioner his theory about what happened in July 1993 and why it happened. He believes Larry Demery betrayed his best friend in order to get a better deal for himself.
Anthony Spearman: I believe that Daniel was drawn in by a man who was his friend. Friendship means a lot to Daniel. Relationships mean a lot to Daniel. It was Daniel’s loyalty that night that caused him to leave wherever he was and to go to help dispose of the body that evening, but that’s all Daniel did, dispose of the body. He wasn’t there when the murder took place.
Amanda Lamb: Spearman has also struck up a relationship with Daniel’s mother, Elizabeth, and he wants her to be able to see her son again. He told the parole commissioner that Daniel can’t wait 3 years – which is the next time he will be eligible to seek parole if he’s denied this time.
Anthony Spearman: They have something in place where they don’t usually extend these paroles to the person on the first time. And I said to them then, I said I hope you let those things go and really decide this case on its merits and the merits of the man because Daniel also has a mother who is very ill and may not last three years if you deny him the right to parole.
Amanda Lamb: And Spearman also told the parole commissioner something pretty astounding, he said he and his wife, Janice, would be happy to have Daniel come live with them at their home in Greensboro if he’s released…that’s right the former head of the state’s NAACP wants Daniel to come home with him.
Anthony Spearman: His room is waiting for him. If they were to say, okay, we’re going to grant you this, he is free to come and rest with us and we will do everything to support him to whatever the next steps are going to be.
Amanda Lamb: I was curious how Spearman got his wife on board with Daniel potentially coming to live with them.
Anthony Spearman: My wife is convinced because she’s watched Moment Of Truth with me and Follow The Truth with me, listened to the podcast.
Amanda Lamb: I asked Spearman and Jones if they felt like they had done enough, if they believed what they had said during the conference call would have the power to move the dial on Daniel’s first real chance at freedom after all these years.
Tom Jones: I would certainly love to see Daniel free, but again, this is a political opponent and the politics of Robeson County and of North Carolina dictates to me that there is that possibility, exists today that he won’t be freed.
Anthony Spearman: I have a measure of cautious optimism I guess you would say and am hoping, I’m hoping for the best, the very, very best and if there’s anything I can do to push that along in the days moving up toward the time they make their decision, I’m certainly going to do it.
Amanda Lamb: After the break, the Parole Commission gets ready to make its decision…everyone, including Daniel, is on pins and needles waiting to see what will happen.
WRAL NEWS ARCHIVE SOUND
Julian Grace, WRAL News Reporter: Lena, I can tell you those supporters were very direct. They want Green out of prison.
Amanda Lamb: On October 22, 2021, the state released the Parole Commission’s decision in the Daniel Green case publicly…Reporter Julian Grace covered the story for WRAL-TV.
WRAL NEWS ARCHIVE SOUND
Julian Grace: He says he’s innocent of murder, so he sought parole, but today he was denied.
Anthony Spearman: Dejected, saddened, by the decision that has been made.
Amanda Lamb: That’s Reverend Spearman responding to the news the day it came down…
Anthony Spearman: Til’ the cows come home, I will continue advocating on behalf of Daniel Green. And I mean that from the bottom of my heart.
Amanda Lamb:Spearman is now retired from his NAACP post, but he’s still an avid activist involved in a number of causes. I interviewed him again several weeks after the parole commission made its decision.
Amanda: Were you surprised that he didn’t get it on this first go around?
Spearman: No, I wasn’t surprised at all. As a matter of fact, I was waiting for that to have happened. I had ultimately been told that usually on the first occasion it’s very unique for someone who is coming up before the parole board to receive a parole on the first, on the first attempt.
Amanda Lamb:Spearman is frustrated. He feels like no one, including the Parole Commision and the courts, have really ever listened to Daniel. He says the documentary, “Moment of Truth” and the podcast you’re listening to right now have opened his eyes to what Daniel has been up against since the day he was arrested. Spearman vividly recalls the video in the docu-series of Sheriff Hubert Stone walking Daniel and Larry into the courthouse in Lumberton for their first appearance before a judge.
ARCHIVE SOUND FROM 1993
Reporter: Daniel, is there anything you have to say to the Jordan family, anything at all?
Daniel Green: I didn’t kill him. That’s all I have to say.
Anthony Spearman: They basically set Daniel up from the beginning. Here’s this young man, 19 years old, African American and you see Stone parading him and Larry through the streets of, I guess it was Lumberton at a time, but, you know, parading them through the streets and who’s in the lead? Daniel is in the lead and Daniel is the one that’s speaking, and it just seems as if he’s being set up to be the leader or the one who was responsible.
Amanda Lamb: I reached out to Daniel’s attorney, Chris Mumma. She didn’t want to speak right after the decision was made. It was too emotional for her. But she agreed to speak with me a few weeks later.
Chris Mumma: So, it was a very, very long shot, but we had to pursue it.
Amanda Lamb: Mumma knew there was little chance Daniel would be granted parole on his first opportunity. She tells us you only have the stage in front of the Parole Commission for a very brief moment in time…you have to cram a lot in quickly…
Chris Mumma: So, you got thirty minutes to introduce yourselves to explain Daniel’s case, to explain why you think he deserves parole and put your best case forward.
Amanda Lamb: We learned there were also a lot of letters sent to the commission on Daniel’s behalf, letters of support that will remain in his file for future parole consideration.
Mumma says she went into the process giving it everything she had, including having two strong voices, Pastor Jones and Reverend Spearman on the call supporting Daniel.
Chris Mumma: Really kind of shocking for me was the then head of the NAACP, Reverend Spearman came forward saying, you know, if Daniel got out, Daniel could stay with Reverend Spearman and Reverend Spearman would be a mentor for him and help him get on the right path and stay on the right path. I’ve never heard of anything like that before in any of the parole cases that I’ve worked on.
Amanda Lamb: So, I wanted to get Daniel’s reaction to the parole decision. At first, he was reluctant to talk about it. He wanted to put his thoughts together before speaking about it. Don’t get me wrong, Daniel loves to talk, but he also likes to find the right words and be prepared when he does. He told me he had hoped the parole commissioners would give him the same grace they had given Larry.
Daniel Green: I was hoping that those same elements would have played in my favor. That did not happen. So, uh, on one hand I was not surprised. On the other hand, I was definitely, you know, disappointed.
Amanda Lamb: Daniel also understands that his infractions in prison definitely worked against him even though he says they came from his need to defend himself behind bars.
Daniel Green: You know, a person may look at me and say, well, this guy has 99 write ups. But you understand that you will know that you are the type of environment that is not designed for people who have been falsely accused of anything or a person who was, who is like actively trying to regain their freedom.
Amanda Lamb: But there is a silver lining. Daniel now has two men, two strong mentors, in his corner, Spearman and Jones who not only supported him at the parole conference, but show up for him every single day while he’s in prison.
Daniel Green: You’re talking about me having a benefit now, something that I’ve never had before in my life where I can go to a man and I can seek guidance. Having them basically stand up for me and say, you know what, this man has value, I’m just really grateful for those relationships, those relationships. That’s the biggest blessing that’s come out of this with me.
Amanda Lamb: And so while the disappointment over the parole decision is very real for Daniel, he also feels valued in a way that he never has before.
Daniel Green: These men found me worthy. And so, I feel that when I am released, I’ll be able to serve them in return out of gratitude. But also because I am worthy for it. I definitely qualify for this. So, I’m thankful for them.
Amanda Lamb: Even though he was denied this time around, Mumma says the fight is not over. She has a few more cards to play.
ChrisMumma: Once you’re denied, it’s kind of put back on the very back shelf until it’s time to pull it out again. Hopefully there’ll be changes in Daniel’s case that won’t require us to go through that process. But if we have to, we’ll fight for him again.
Amanda Lamb: It’s early December now, Daniel has just turned 47. He’s been transferred to a new prison. He and Mumma are trying to find something positive to hold onto. It’s been less than two months since the parole commission’s denial …
Chris Mumma: You just get to the point where you’re just not expecting anything positive in this case. You’re not expecting things to go the way they should.
Amanda Lamb: And then something totally unexpected happens.
Chris Mumma: I was en route somewhere, and saw the email. Actually I did pull over to look at the print, and had to read it several times.
Amanda Lamb: A ruling from the North Carolina Supreme Court that could change everything for Daniel.
Chris Mumma: I was emotional for Daniel because it’s been so long, since before he was arrested that anything positive has happened…
Amanda Lamb: On the next episode of Follow the Truth, Daniel gets his first break EVER from the courts…HOPE is now back on the table…
Anthony Spearman: He was excited. Everybody was excited, everybody was excited and justly so.
Amanda Lamb: That’s next time on Follow The Truth.
Amanda Lamb: Track the case on social media at follow truth pod. Read my blog, transcripts, and case files at followthetruthpod.com. If you like the show, we’d appreciate you telling a friend about it.
This episode was written by me, Amanda Lamb.
Mixed by Marc Maximov.
Anita Normanly is our production manager.
Shelly Leslie is executive producer and head of WRAL Studios.
Original music is by George Hage and Lee Rosevere.
The show is represented by Melinda Morris Zanoni and Legacy Talent Entertainment with branding and digital marketing by Capitol B Creative.
Thanks for listening.