On August 3, 1993, a badly decomposed body was discovered in a swamp in McColl, South Carolina, just south of the state’s border with North Carolina. Due to the poor condition of the corpse, it took 10 days to identify that the body belonged to James R. Jordan Sr., famously known as the father of legendary basketball player Michael Jordan. Within three years, two troubled men – Daniel Green and Larry Demery – were charged and imprisoned for the murder with Demery pleading guilty for a lesser sentence in exchange for testifying against Green in court.
But the evidence presented at trial and subsequent points of data continue to plague some watchers of Green’s case. Green, currently serving a life sentence in North Carolina, professes his innocence, and his case attracted the attention of Christine Mumma of the NC-based Center on Actual Innocence. Yet, despite pleas for a review of new evidence, Green remains behind bars with dwindling options for freedom.
It’s a harrowing and sadly all-too-familiar story, one that compelled director and North Carolina native Matthew Perniciaro to re-examine this infamous case, its impact on Robeson County, North Carolina, and the plight of another Black man potentially wrongly convicted.
“I was 13 or 14, when the crime occurred, and because of the local coverage, it just really stuck with me. It was something that, even from a relatively young age, I kind of realized all the pieces didn’t add up,” Perniciaro explained. “The public narrative was very simple. It was it was a robbery that had gone wrong, and James Jordan was killed in the process. This series is the result of a two and a half to 3-year investigation into all these facts. We looked at things that most people have never seen before. These are evidence files and archival video and digitized audio from the trail that we had access to that most people have never seen before.”
Perniciaro’s research culminated in the IMDBTv / Amazon Prime docuseries Moment of Truth. Over its 5-part run, Moment of Truth looks not only at the evidence presented in Green and Demery’s case, but it also explores the controversial sociopolitical events in Robeson County – the county where Jordan was murdered – that likely shaped the outcome of Green’s trial.
During the trial, Larry Demery, once Daniel Green’s best friend, testified that Green pulled the trigger and murdered James Jordan. Demery provided his testimony as a part of a larger plea deal resulting in a 40-year sentence. Demery is scheduled to be paroled on August 6, 2023.
Green, under the advise of his public defender, did not testify at his own trial. He was found guilty and was sentenced to life in prison, all the while steadfastly proclaiming his innocence. Green claims to have only helped Demery dispose of Jordan’s body in an act of dedicated friendship.
Despite questioning the common narrative of the case, Perniciaro explored all facts in the case in an as unbiased manner as possible. The resulting docuseries gives Daniel Green the opportunity to finally give his side of the story in a public forum.
“As a filmmaker, my goal in this was to tell a full view of this case. All of the facts. All of the evidence. Everything that we could uncover and discover through this process. That’s our goal, and in doing that, we hope that we find the truth,” Perniciaro said. “Daniel did not testify during his trial under advisement of his defense counsel. This is the first time audiences will really hear his side of the story in his own voice. We wanted to present both sides so audiences could come to those determinations on their own. That’s something great documentaries do. If it’s biased, if we’re pushing it one way or the other, then you’re not seeing a complete picture. The goal is to tell all the facts and let audiences come to their own determination.”
In addition to exploring the details of the case, Perniciaro and team use Moment of Truth‘s second episode to explore much broader concerns. Underlying the Jordan case is a series of police and larger political corruption scandals that nearly tore Robeson County apart in the late 1980s and early 1990s. The complex backstory of this county may seem like an unnecessary departure for the series, but it’s absolutely essential to understanding the full impact of the James Jordan case.
Viewers have the opportunity to draw parallels between the events depicted in the second episode and the modern day Black Lives Matter movement as well as the murder of George Floyd. That exploration made this episode of the 5-part series one of Perniciaro and team’s favorites.
“We were very adamant that that we had to tell the history of Robeson county early. Episode one searching for the information about the case when James Jordan went missing. Kind of the initial events that play out, but then we take a pretty steep departure from the narrative. That was by design,” Perniciaro explained. “To understand what happens in this case and what happens during trial, you have to understand Robeson County and the environment these young men grew up in. Once you understand that, it does cause you to question pieces of information you’re hearing from law enforcement. The fact that this is 30 years ago, and we’re still seeing the exact same things, if not even worse, today… We have a really long way to go as a society.”
Moment of Truth is currently streaming on Amazon Prime.