“Moment of Truth,” a new five-part docu-series about the murder of Michael Jordan’s father, James Jordan, does not present conclusive proof about why James Jordan was slain in 1993 after pulling over to the side of the road in North Carolina, nor does it prove who drew the trigger. However, it does highlight the several miscarriages of justice that occurred prior to the conviction of Daniel Green, a Black man, and Larry Demery, his white buddy, for the crime.
“This crime, and the subsequent trial and convictions, speak to a bigger discourse about systematic racism in the criminal justice system,” says “Moment of Truth” filmmaker Matthew Perniciaro. “One of the most heartbreaking aspects of the narrative is how little progress has been achieved in those systems in the decades since this murder occurred.”
James Jordan’s Death
Perniciaro is not attempting to argue that Green or Demery had nothing to do with James Jordan’s death, but rather that the facts surrounding the case were murkier than the media narrative that arose in response to the investigation. Green, then 18, and Demery, then 19, were swiftly identified as suspects after James Jordan’s body was discovered in a South Carolina swamp. The revelation of a video of Green dancing around to rap music while wearing jewels, including an All-Star ring given to his father by Michael Jordan, didn’t assist their cause. Demery eventually cooperated with investigators in exchange for leniency, pointing the finger at Green.
According to eyewitnesses, Green was at a home party around the time James Jordan was killed. There was also a lack of tangible evidence linking Green to the crime scene, and there are flaws in the prosecution’s claim that Green shot James Jordan while he slept in his Lexus, namely a lack of blood found in the car. He has long stated that his involvement was limited to assisting in the cover-up of the crime. Green’s defense was also defective, with his attorneys wasting a critical opportunity to have the case ruled a mistrial. Chris Mumma, executive director of the North Carolina Center on Actual Innocence, has taken up Green’s case, but the courts have so far declined to hear fresh evidence that could lessen his sentence. Demery, on the other hand, is set to be launched in 2023.
“The prosecution’s case was founded on Larry’s testimony,” Perniciaro explains. “His voice could be heard. Daniel did not testify, thus giving Daniel a voice to tell us his tale was critical for us to gain a complete understanding. What I do believe strongly is that there is substantial doubt about the facts as presented at trial, and as a result, I believe Daniel Green is entitled to a second evidentiary hearing.”
Amazon IMDb TV
“Moment of Truth,” which is currently streaming on Amazon’s IMDb TV, allows Perniciaro to delve further into the region where he grew up, while simultaneously providing an insider’s perspective on a narrative that benefits from intimate regional knowledge. Perniciaro, a North Carolina native, was obsessed with the case at the time, consuming the nonstop local coverage. Later, Jimmy Goodmon, an old high school acquaintance whose family owned the state’s news networks WRAL and Capitol Broadcasting, notified him that the corporation was digitizing his archive. Footage from Demery and Green’s trials, as well as news coverage of the murder, served as the foundation for Perniciaro’s docuseries. At the same time, “Moment of Truth” follows Green’s efforts to obtain a new trial and Mumma’s efforts to uncover flaws in the case.
“This is a case that has been veiled in mystery for so long that even if you believe you know the facts, come with an open mind,” Perniciaro says. “There’s more here than I realized. We hope to shed some new insight by telling all sides of the events that occurred and allowing people to make their own decisions.”
Perniciaro also knew the history of Robeson County, North Carolina, where Demery and Green were prosecuted. This provided him with insight into the area’s persistent racism, as well as tensions between the Black population and the police force. The video mentions a spot where a Confederate soldier statue stands in front of a courthouse.
“It wasn’t until I went to college in New York that I realized how much imagery I was exposed to and how much was minimized in that section of the country,” Perniciaro adds. “The Confederate flag is everywhere, but when you’re surrounded by it, you don’t realize what this iconography implies because it’s everywhere. After a while, you realize how broken it is that a Confederate soldier would be in front of a courtroom.”
“Moment of Truth” features interviews with most of the important players, including the prosecutors and investigators who brought Demery and Green to justice, as well as their friends and family. There are no interviews with Michael Jordan or the Jordan family, who have remained mainly silent about the tragedy.
Documentary of Filmmaker
“As a documentary filmmaker, I always want as many people as possible to contribute,” Perniciaro explains. “It was unsurprising that the family would not want to do that. This was their biggest loss, and they had every right to grieve in their own way and in privacy. Just because someone is a public person does not imply that all aspects of their life must be made public.”