The man whose testimony helped convict a lifelong friend in the murder of NBA star Michael Jordan's father could face a death sentence.
Larry Martin Demery (pictured at left, 20, pleaded guilty last year to first-degree murder in the death of James Jordan (pictured at right), 57. Demery agreed to help investigators build the case against Daniel Andre Green (pictured below), 21, who was sentenced to life in prison in March.
Despite his help in the case, Demery still faces a possible death sentence.
At a hearing this morning, defense attorneys asked that the death penalty be stricken from consideration, but Superior Court Judge Gregory Weeks denied that motion.
Weeks' ruling means a jury will be selected to hear evidence and decide whether Demery is sentenced to life in prison or death.
Jury selection began this morning.
The defense motion was based on a New Hanover County case. The North Carolina Supreme Court ruled that if the evidence showed two murder defendants used the same amount of force and the first got a life sentence, then a death sentence for the second was too harsh.
Defense lawyer Hugh Rogers claimed his client was a bystander in the crime and has cooperated with the prosecution.
``Demery was using much less force,'' Rogers said.
He added that, because Green received a life sentence, Demery should not be considered for the death penalty. Demery stood by when the murder occurred, according to his own testimony, and didn't have a gun.
But Weeks ruled that it was not up to him to determine who used more force.
``The issue of proportionality is an issue to be determined by the North Carolina supreme court not the trial court,'' Weeks said this morning.
District Attorney Johnson Britt said earlier that he expected the defense motion to fail.
``It's up to the jury,'' Britt said. ``I think his role was less than that of Green. Green was the trigger man.
``I could have taken a plea to second-degree murder and avoided all this. But I don't think that would be proper.''
The jury that hears the case can choose between death and life in prison. Its recommendation is binding under state capital murder law.
Demery's trial will be shorter than Green's, which began Jan. 3 and ended March 12, because he already pleaded guilty. Demery's trial will focus solely on the sentence.
Britt, who had allowed Demery to visit with his 2-year-old daughter and his fiance in his personal office, said he is obligated to present evidence justifying the death penalty.
Demery testified at Green's trial that he watched Green shoot Jordan, who had stopped his car along a roadside to take a nap, and helped dump the body in a South Carolina swamp.
Defense lawyers were expected to present psychological evidence.
The defense also planned to point to Demery's cooperation with authorities, his admission of guilt and his testimony. Britt said it was Demery who first told investigators that Green pulled the trigger.
Witnesses lined up by the prosecution to testify against Demery include two investigators and victims of two robberies, as well as the coroner and pathologist from South Carolina who handled Jordan's body. Britt said he also would use Demery's statement to police, but can't call him as a witness.
``The case against Demery is much different than the case against Green,'' the prosecutor said. ``It's basically that Larry Demery was there. It revolves around his statements.''
In Green's trial, his lawyers contended Green was somewhere else when Jordan was killed.
When Demery pleaded guilty to murder, he received a consolidated sentence of 40 years on charges of armed robbery of Jordan and conspiracy to commit robbery. The charges were consolidated with a number of other robberies and assaults pending against Demery.
Green, who changed his name to Lord D. As-Saddiq Al-Amin Sallam U'Allah to reflect his Muslim faith, is serving his sentence in Central Prison. He has appealed the conviction.
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