Lillington, N.C. — Daniel Green, sentenced to life in prison for the shooting death of basketball star Michael Jordan's father 17 years ago, has insisted he was never involved in the killing and has fought since his conviction to clear his name.
Now, findings Wednesday from an external review into how the State Bureau of Investigation's crime lab reported blood evidence in hundreds of cases are giving Green renewed hope for another trial.
"I'm not allowing myself to get excited," Green, 35, said Friday from Harnett Correctional Institution. "I want to be excited, but I've been fighting this really 13 years now."
Green is one of two men arrested in the July 1993 shooting of James Jordan, who authorities say was killed after a nap in his car along U.S. Highway 74 near Lumberton. His body was found a couple of weeks later in a South Carolina swamp.
A jury found Green guilty of first-degree murder in March 1996 after his co-defendant, Larry Demery, implicated him in the crime and an SBI agent testified that she found a small amount of blood in the passenger seat of Jordan’s car.
Green's case is one of 190 from 1987 to 2003 that ended in convictions in which SBI analysts omitted, overstated or falsely reported information about blood evidence, according to a government-ordered review by two former assistant FBI directors, who looked at more 15,000 SBI case files.
According to the review of Green's case, the SBI found only “indications” that blood was present in an initial test, and four follow-up tests were inconclusive.
The findings, his attorneys believe, were never disclosed during the trial, and Green said he's not surprised by what the report found.
"The most important stage of any case is the investigation stage," he said. "When you have some type of adversarial system and everything is about winning, then this is what happens."
Green admits to helping dispose of Jordan's body and driving Jordan's car but that Demery called him after Jordan was dead, asking for help.
Prosecutors argued that Green pointed a gun through Jordan's car window and fired the fatal shot, but defense attorneys repeatedly questioned why so little blood was found in the vehicle.
Past attorneys for Green have also noted there was no conclusive match between what authorities said was the murder weapon and a bullet in Jordan’s body, nor was there gunshot residue in the car.
Scott Holmes, Green’s current lawyer, said he is already working on an appeal unrelated to the blood evidence, but would look closely at the SBI report. He declined to discuss further details.
Johnson Britt, who prosecuted the case in Lumberton and still serves as district attorney, told The Associated Press that he’s confident Green’s murder conviction would stand if challenged.
He pointed to the fact that Green used Jordan’s car and cell phone, and that the weapon authorities say killed Jordan was found in his home.
“There was a lot of evidence that linked him to the commission of that crime,” Britt said.
Jurors were also shown a video of Green dancing while wearing a watch and two NBA rings the basketball star gave his father.
But Green’s lawyers argued at the time that he had nothing to do with the killing and that Demery was coerced into pleading guilty to murder to save himself.
The defense called four witnesses who testified that Green was with them watching television at the hour Jordan was killed.
Demery, who pleaded guilty in Jordan's death in 1995, is eligible for parole in 2016. In 1997, he was sentenced to 40 years in prison for a motel robbery and for the robbery and shooting of a store clerk earlier in July 1993.
"My co-defendant has the exact same charges I have, plus 240 years worth of other charges, and they chose to go with him because he was the one who was giving them something that could get some type of conviction, not because he was telling the truth," Green said.