TThe shortened version of Michael Jordan’s story goes something like this: The Carolina kid misses the cut for his high school team, seals an NCAA crown for North Carolina in a late bucket, and elevates the Chicago Bulls to six NBA championships on the way to becoming the greatest basketball player of all time, a world class resentful and a icon Many times finished. The murder of his father, James, if it gets a passing mention in legend, is presented as little more than an unfortunate episode in the hero’s relentless journey to the top. But the full version of that story is nowhere near as clean or neat.
Messy details are finally taken into account on screen in Moment of Truth: The Killing of James Jordan, a five-part documentary series. which premieres on Amazon’s IMDb TV on Friday. The series begins in the summer of 1993, when James Jordan disappeared for three weeks before his body was discovered in a stream in South Carolina. Jordan is believed to have been shot and killed while napping on the side of a North Carolina highway while driving home after a funeral in the early morning of July 23.
Jordan’s body was so decomposed that the South Carolina coroner labeled it a John Doe and saved his hands and jaw for future identification. His red Lexus SC400, found destroyed in North Carolina about 60 miles from his body, was stolen along with money and personal effects that included a pair of NBA rings – gifts from Michael, of course. The car phone records eventually led to a two-state, three-county investigation of two teenage friends with criminal records: Daniel Green, a black man, and Larry Demery, a Native American. James Jordan was just days away from his 57th birthday.
Initially framed as a random carjacking gone horribly wrong, the crime shocked the country. (Please note: this is a year before the OJ circus and over three years before Bill Cosby’s only child met an eerily similar ending.) It shook me: a 13-year-old Chicago native, Bulls-crazy, whose fierce loyalty to MJ could be traced back to a father who had scoffed at taking me fishing around the Near West Side blocks surrounding the stadium. Chicago looking for second-hand tickets on school nights. For most of that summer, apparently, there was no more urgent news in Chicago than the murder of James Jordan, even as new cases appeared daily in the city. We all knew what James meant to Michael because Michael meant so much to us. Hell we just saw them towel dry the champagne inside a jubilant Bulls locker room after sealing the first three at-bats. We I took it personally.
But when MJ suddenly summoned a retirement press conference stopping the world months after landing gold with the Dream Team in Barcelona, the local desperation over his father’s murder was quickly forgotten. When Michael set out to play professional baseball, something his father had always wanted him to try, well, that didn’t just squash local curiosity in James Jordan’s sad ending; He gave NBA fans permission to freak out with conspiracy theories about Michael’s murder and retirement related to the game. Michael’s public reluctance to insist on his father’s murder only made it easier for the rest of us to peddle rumors and innuendo when we weren’t devilishly tracking MJ’s minor league batting average or foolishly pinning hopes for a four in Scottie Pippen’s game. nice with Tony Kukoc – all the stories that have condition unpacked in documentaries, by the way.
Moment of Truth director Matthew Perniciaro, who reached out to the Jordan family in the early stages of their project and was respectfully rejected, can relate. Like me, he was a Jordan fanatic in the nineties. “When I was a kid growing up in North Carolina at the time, there was an extra degree of pride that I was from the same place,” he says. But, unlike me, Perniciaro never lost sight of the real tragedy. “The Jordan family is very beloved in North Carolina. The case, the murder of James Jordan, was reported much more here than nationally. And because of that, I had a great awareness of history for most of my life. It is probably the best known criminal case in North Carolina history. “
On the books, the final legal decision reads like a great victory for the state. Demery and Green faced each other. Demery went crazy. His confessions during questioning and on the witness stand not only attributed the entire plan, including the murder, to his accomplice, but also described him as a sadistic reveler. Meanwhile, Green missed an opportunity to sell Judge Gregory A Weeks the judgment annulment after going through the entire trial without testifying. In March 1996 both were convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment.
What Perniciaro and his team do so ingeniously in Moment of Truth, thanks in large part to WRAL-TV’s trove of archival footage, is to restore the sociopolitical context that was overshadowed by the starlight of the name Jordan. The documentary delves into the history of Robeson County in North Carolina, the site of the trial and a majority and minority county with deep divisions between blacks and Native Americans; to massive confederate monument Sentinel stands on the steps of the county courthouse. They introduce us to nice, scene-chewing guys like Johnson Britt, the DA with the straight arrow hell-bent on winning his biggest case; and Hubert Stone, the bombastic county sheriff whose out-of-wedlock son, Hubert Larry Deese, was a convicted drug lord with apparent ties to Demery; Deese’s number was one of the first to appear on the car’s phone record. As was that Isn’t it grinding for the world conspiracy?
But the people you will probably feel the most for, other than the Jordan family, of course, are Green, an overly familiar, brilliant but careless guy whose biggest crime might well have been wicked loyalty to Demery; and Christine Mumma, the innocence attorney who went on to run for state attorney general to help Green’s cause, only to have her exoneration record used against her in the 2020 Republican primary.
That’s the thing about this documentary: the further you go into the past, the more it seems to be a mirror of the present. “I have always viewed the murder of James Jordan and the case and the convictions at trial and everything that happens afterwards as a gateway to a larger story about our society and specifically about corruption in law enforcement and law enforcement. systemic racism and the criminal justice system, ”says Perniciaro. “While we were doing the show, it was really humbling and difficult trying to process the little progress that has been made in 30 years.”
Also, the story doesn’t end after episode five. Demery was granted parole last summer and is scheduled to be released in August 2023. Green, who has long maintained his innocence and failed in his attempts to obtain a new trial, is eligible for release. conditional in October. If anything, the plot is thickening. But through forensic reporting and a foolproof approach, Moment of Truth at least takes the idea of James Jordan’s assassination as a mere character-building subplot for Michael Jordan’s larger myth and discards it entirely.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism