Who Really Killed Michael Jordan’s Dad?
A new documentary casts doubt on evidence presented at the trial of Daniel Green, who was convicted of being the triggerman in James Jordan’s death. Watch an exclusive clip here.
On a night in July 1993, about halfway between Wilmington and Charlotte, North Carolina, James Jordan, the father of NBA superstar Michael Jordan, pulled his flashy red Lexus to the side of the road. He reclined his seat to take a nap before continuing on his journey and was shot once in the chest and died. According to law enforcement, Jordan was the victim of a botched robbery.
The triggerman was determined to be 18-year-old Daniel Andre Green, who was sentenced to life in prison for first-degree murder in the high-profile 1996 trial. But for the nearly three decades that Green has been incarcerated, he has insisted he’s not responsible for the death of the basketball legend’s father.
Moment of Truth, a five-episode docuseries available on IMDb TV, Amazon’s premium free streaming service on April 2, takes a hard look at the murder by weaving in the complex history of Robeson County to poke holes in both law enforcement and the prosecution’s evidence, making a powerful case for Green’s innocence.
In an exclusive clip shared with The Daily Beast, Green’s lead lawyer Christine Mumma, executive director of the North Carolina Center on Actual Innocence, points to Jordan’s autopsy report after his body was found in a swamp in early August 1993. Unable to identify the body, partly due to its extreme decomposition, Dr. Joel Sexton labeled Jordan as a John Doe, conducted and completed his report, and had the body cremated.
The pathologist determined that while Jordan died of a gunshot wound to the right side of his chest, he could not find an entry point for a gun wound in that area of the shirt. Instead, he found a cluster of holes elsewhere.
“There is no hole in the shirt at that point,” the report states. “Directly below that location in the lower abdominal region are three holes that would line up with the hole in the chest if the shirt were pulled up approximately one foot.”
Yet, when evidence was presented at trial, there was suddenly a hole in the shirt that matched up with Jordan’s chest wound, court transcripts show. Additionally, it was stated that gunshot residue had been found there, which was surprising to Mumma because “the body was in the water for almost two weeks.”
“The options are: The medical examiner was that sloppy, that he missed something he was looking for, which calls into question other things about the case,” she says. “Or the shirt was tampered with and the hole was added later because it needed to match with the theory that James Jordan was shot in the car.”
It’s one of the many instances referenced in the docuseries that cast doubt on Green being the triggerman and support the theory that Green was stitched up by his best friend, Larry Demery, and the local sheriff’s office in an attempt to conceal who was really involved that fatal night.
Speaking to The Daily Beast, Mumma said she believes the docuseries is “much more accurate than anything else that's ever been put out there on this story.”
“I believe that evidence was tampered with to fit the storyline and that the true story of what happened here was never pursued by law enforcement… whether it was because of law enforcement's own involvement in the drug trafficking there or for other reasons,” she said.
Going off the prosecution’s case, which was led by Johnson Britt, it initially doesn’t look good for Green, who had already been locked up for assault with a deadly weapon in 1990. His best friend was cooperating with the police to testify against him. “I believe we’ve killed Michael Jordan’s daddy,” Demery claimed Green had told him. He was caught on a home videotape dancing around in a Chicago Bulls gold watch and an NBA All-Star ring. (While Judge Gregory Weeks didn’t allow the tape to be used as evidence in the trial, photos were permitted.) A stolen gun was found hidden in a vacuum cleaner in Green's mother’s home. It was claimed Green was seen around town in the Lexus. But perhaps most importantly, in Robeson County—which was described as having a racial hierarchy that followed in the rank of white, Native American, and Black—Green happened to be Black.
With all the evidence stacked against Green, it seemed like a slam-dunk of a case. That is until Green’s alibi is brought up. On the night of Jordan’s murder, Green was seen all night at a house party at his godmother’s trailer during the critical hours when Jordan was killed, several alibi witnesses testified during the trial. Green claims Demery had also been there but left earlier to go meet someone for a drug deal. He allegedly returned hours later in an agitated state and urged Green to leave with him.
Green claims that Demery described how he mistook Jordan for a drug connection and shot him. Out of loyalty to his longtime friend, who reportedly never made fun of the stutter he had growing up, Green said he helped move Jordan’s body from the side of the road, dump the body, and ditch the car in the following days. While Green denies that he ever played a direct role in Jordan’s death, he “never denies he was a stupid 18-year-old boy,” Mumma says.
From there, the documentary does a steady job of casting doubt on law enforcement’s investigation, as well as happenings during the trial. One witness testified in court that Demery and Green had robbed him a few days before the murder, stealing the handgun that was later found at Green’s mother’s house. (It’s noted that Demery had also been staying at the same home.)
The man told the courtroom he wasn’t able to “swear to it” that the Black man with Demery was in fact Green because “so many Black people look alike.” He doubled down on his statements after leaving court, telling reporters it was the “truth” because “their features are just alike, some of them.”
Also, during the trial, the jury was dismissed one day when it was claimed an alternate juror had been overheard discussing the case over a payphone, declaring that “n----- deserves to die” and that she’d be finding Green guilty. The woman denied she ever said such a thing and was allowed to stay on as an alternate juror.
But the main point the documentary makes is the glaring lack of investigation into Hubert Larry Deese—the child of Robeson County Sheriff Hubert Stone, who happened to have led the Jordan murder investigation. Deese knew Demery and his number was the second call made from the car phone in Jordan’s Lexus after his death.
Both Deese and Demery worked at Crestline Mobile Home, which allegedly was part of the drug-trafficking trade rampant in the area, nicknamed “Cocaine Alley” and responsible for pumping the product along the East Coast. Also, the company’s office was located less than a mile away from where Jordan’s body was found. Demery is claimed to have helped run drugs for Deese, who was arrested the year after Jordan’s death for trafficking cocaine.
When Green’s legal team pushed to present evidence of the phone call to Deese during the trial, they were rebuffed by the lead prosecutor, who claimed there was no evidence that Deese ever answered. The judge also said there was no evidence proving Deese was Stone’s son, but Green’s legal team claims that the prosecution was very much aware of the father-son relation.
It all makes for a compelling case for Green to appeal for a new trial, which he and Mumma are working toward in the hope that one day Green will be found innocent of killing Jordan and be able to walk free. Demery, who was also sentenced to life in prison, is scheduled to be released on parole in August 2023.
“At a minimum, I think Daniel deserves an evidentiary hearing, which then would prove that he deserves a new trial,” Mumma said. “But in my mind, the evidence supports... the charge of murder [to be] dismissed. He's been in prison for 18 years longer than he should have been for the crimes he admits to and the crimes that I believe the evidence supports.”
But while Demery has an end date to his imprisonment in sight and Green does not, Green is trying not to harbor any bitterness towards his former friend.
“First of all, I know he lied and that’s reality,” he says in the docuseries. “I know he lied on me and I know he killed James Jordan. Love and hate can’t exist in the same space at the same time. As a prisoner, I firmly believe that a person who is going to get out and not commit crimes should be freed.”
Mumma hopes the documentary will motivate a response from anyone who could help shed light on what happened that tragic night.
“I'm happy the true narrative is getting out there,” she said. “There's somebody out there who knows more about what really happened at the Quality Inn, with regard to gambling and drugs. There's people out there who know what actually happened to James Jordan. I hope this story will give people the courage to come forward with the truth.”