The Audit is F’d Up – Part Two Recap
Written by Brandi Abbott
This week’s episode picks up with a continuation of the audit and the case of a man named Daniel Green.
Daniel Green was at a cookout on July 22nd, 1993 when he ran into his friend Larry Demery. Demery asked him if he wanted to come with him to New York to make a delivery, Daniel declined and Demery left the party alone. A few hours later he was back and freaking out. He asked for Daniel’s help and this time Daniel went with him.
That same day, a man named James Jordon, the dad of Michael Jordan, attended the funeral of a friend in Wilmington, North Carolina. He headed home at 12:30 AM. It was about a two hour drive and he must have been tired because he pulled off of the highway to take a nap.
On August 3rd 1993, a fisherman discovered a body in a remote swamp in South Carolina and it appeared the body had been in the swamp for about a week. On August 5th, the Cumberland County Sheriff’s Department were notified that an abandoned and stripped Lexus, belonging to James Jordan had been found. His family hadn’t spoken to him since July 22nd but no one had filed a missing person’s report. On August 7th, the coroner in Marlboro County, South Carolina cremated the body, saving the jaw and hands for identification purposes and on August 13th the teeth were matched to James Jordon.
Back on June 22nd, Demery didn’t admit to Daniel that what he needed help with was moving a body until they were back at his car. Damery told Daniel that he went to a hotel for a drug delivery, that the man he was delivering to tried to proposition him which led to a fight, and there was a shooting. James Jordan is the man who was shot.
On August 15th 1993, Demery and Daniel were arrested for murder. They had ridden around in James Jordan’s car for three days. They made calls from his car phone, including to 1-900 sex numbers, and made home movies using James Jordan’s video camera which included Daniel wearing the championship ring and watch Michael Jordan had given his father. Both Daniel and Demery had pasts involving spending time in jail. The cops tried tactics to get them to turn on each other, including threatening them with the death penalty and it worked for Demery. Between the time Demery took his plea offer and his testimony, he changed the story on what happened that night but the plea offer stood. He testified that he and Daniel tried to rob James Jordan, and that Daniel shot him. Daniel was convicted of first degree felony murder and was sentenced to life in prison plus ten years.
Daniel has maintained throughout that he was not involved with the robbery or murder, but his conviction was upheld by the North Carolina Court of Appeals in 1998 and the North Carolina Supreme Court in 1999. He filed a Motion for Appropriate Relief, known as an MAR, in 2000. His appointed council had done basically nothing, and in the 2008 after Daniel filed a supplemental MAR, the judge decreed his case would be reviewed and he would be appointed new council. In 2010 he asked for the NCCAI’s representation but they declined because he had recently been appointed new council.
Daniel’s case was on the list of 230 cases impacted by the SBI’s shoddy practices. The same bloodstain reporting issues from Greg’s case were present in Daniel’s, and Chris Mumma agreed to take on his case in 2016. Chris reviewed his case and increasingly felt like he wasn’t involved in the robbery or murder and the NCCAI joined his co-council.
The SBI complained that the audit done by Swecker and Wolfe looked at their old science through a modern science lens. This doesn’t really work, though, as the audit focused on their practices and reporting, or misreporting rather, not on their actual "science". Jennifer Elwell testified and dismissed the audit completely, though she admitted she only read parts of the report. She claimed that Swecker and Wolf didn’t understand forensic science, which seemed to be the common consensus across the SBI lab. Elwell refused to acknowledge that either she or the SBI were in error. In 2011, DA’s offices in NC had gone though about 150 cases from the report and claimed that these seemed okay as there was other strong evidence in every one of the cases. If that were true though, would this episode on Daniel Green even be happening?
The phone calls made from James Jordan’s car was pointed at as the most important evidence by law enforcement including the sheriff, as it linked Daniel and Demery to the car. They failed to mention, however, that the second call made was to a drug dealer named Hubert Deese, the sheriff’s son. Demery and Deese were former coworkers who use to work about two miles from where the body was found in South Carolina. Deese was never interviewed by the police. He was interviewed by the prosecutors, but the defense was never aware. Daniel’s attorneys knew that the phone calls from the car were important to the prosecution’s case and that they were making a big deal out of them, but as far as they knew, the phone calls had only been to sex lines.
The coroner noted in his report that there was no hole in the victim’s shirt to match the bullet hole in his chest, but law enforcement did not collect the shirt as evidence. The shirt was given to the funeral home and was buried due to an offensive oder, but was later exhumed and there actually was a bullet hole.
Demery, who was considered the star witness, had been given that plea deal. He was originally sentence to life plus 20 years, but his deal made him eligible for parole in 2015. Priya couldn’t find anything saying whether or not he’d been released. The defense was never informed about the plea deal. The prosecution also didn’t read out the list of their potential witnesses to the jury to make sure there’d be no issues. One of the jurors had been accused of sexual misconduct by two of the witnesses. There was a witness who claimed Daniel had robbed him, but, it turned out, was just plain racist and said that all black people look alike. Elwell recanted her own testimony. She originally testified that she found James Jordan’s blood in his car, but her tests were all inconclusive. She admitted to withholding four inconclusive tests results that could have undermined the prosecutor’s theory of how James died. Daniel’s attorneys claim that the DA intentionally exaggerated Elwell’s findings and withheld her notes. The judge stated that withholding the results of the tests were a violation of his order. Right after Daniel was convicted, Elwell claimed she was ordered by a supervisor to destroy the only known samples of James Jordan’s blood, and that she had never before been asked to do that by a supervisor. The defense stated that they had never been informed the samples were destroyed.
One of Daniel’s attorneys said the judge who sentenced Daniel to prison filed an affidavit stating that if Elwell has changed her opinion on the substance found in the car then her testimony at trial would constitute as false and misleading testimony on material fact. The blood evidence was the only physical evidence supporting Demery’s version of events and was critical in his conviction, making what was said earlier, about all of the 150 cases in the audit having other strong evidence, false. Despite all of this, Daniel is still in prison.
In regards to the Derrick Allen case, which was covered last week, the local paper says the hearing for him touched on the issue of whether the SBI lab is independent or whether it tips the scales of justice in the courtroom in the favor of the prosecution and police. National Academy of Science issued a report in 2009 that said that crime labs should be independent and out from under the influence of prosecutors or police. So, of course, a former judge with no science background named Joe John was appointed interim director of the SBI Crime Lab by Attorney General Roy Cooper. After being there for a month, Joe John told the News and Observer that his impression was that the lab workers were not puppets of law enforcement. He said the analysts told him that they believed their customer was the criminal justice system as a whole. However, Elwell told the News and Observer that the SBI lab was drawing new guidelines to provide a stricter standard of customer service for their client, the state of North Carolina.
Joe John did an internal investigation of the lab at the instruction of the DA’s office and found an additional 74 cases that were not included in the audit. These were found by hand reviewing files. Elwell was the analyst in 38 of those cases, and Deaver was the analyst in one. Deaver had 50 cases in the original audit and Elwell had 37. This new investigation brought her total to 75 mishandled cases. Spittle had 90 cases in the audit and 26 in this new investigation so he still holds the lead for worst lab analyst ever. Jess reminds us that the former SBI director, Robin Pendergraft, said that all of the problems at the SBI Crime Lab were just one guy.
Defense attorneys were worried about the prosecutors reviewing the cases. Diane Savage said that there was no way for prosecutors to know how a jury would respond if it learned about improperly handled evidence. The News and Observer interviewed the Foreman of the jury in Kirk Turner’s case who said jurors were stunned by the SBI’s conduct. When asked about Gerald Thomas he said he was very conservative and a “law and order guy” but that he didn’t know what word to use but “fraud”. Prosecutors, however, felt that only by them looking though the cases would the result be true justice. DA Willoughby looked though all of the cases that went through his office, and they all appeared to be fine in his opinion. You may remember him from episode two wherein it was revealed he didn’t like the Innocence Inquiry Commission. He stated that the status of his cases would not change, and that most of them had confessed before there was any blood evidence. Willoughby also said that the science needed to be accepted as science whether it was unhelpful or not and that he didn’t think anyone was tipping the scales in the favor of the prosecutors.
When the report of the independent investigation was released, Swecker said that the way the SBI lab reported impacted the decisions that were made. It could have resulted in situations where material favorable to the defendant was not disclosed. So there are those that may have had other evidence against them and with the addition of the blood evidence, they may have plead guilty in the face of all of that evidence. Chris Mumma said she didn’t think that there was anyone who would be surprised that the DAs felt that there was additional evidence of guilt on top of the blood evidence as that was why they were prosecuting in the first place, and that she wanted the defense to review those cases as well. SBI Greg McLeod acknowledged the concern raised by defense attorneys and urged prosecutors to complete their case files for review.
Priya takes a moment to say how affected she’s been by these cases and names some of the people they’ve covered so far whose lives were ruined or impacted. For good news, F’d Up has been assured that every name on both lists have now been thoroughly looked into and justice has been pursued or is being pursued. After the initial audit Jennifer Elwell was suspended, though they don’t know if she was ever fired, due to her 37 cases in the initial audit. Deaver was suspended with pay, which I would just call a vacation. Attorney General Roy Cooper said that the SBI was going to make changes to its procedures and promised to send the cases flagged in the audit back to the courts for review. Changes were being made and many of the convicted were being released. However, getting out of prison isn’t as easy as you would think. Next week’s episode will take a look at the challenges the exonerated face.