RALEIGH, N.C. — A key witness has recanted her testimony against five teens convicted in the killing of NBA star Chris Paul’s grandfather.
News outlets report that Jessicah Black now says she lied in court after police coerced her into implicating the teens in the killing of Nathaniel Jones on Nov. 15, 2002.
Black recanted her testimony in a deposition played Monday at a hearing in Raleigh before The North Carolina Innocence Inquiry Commission. Four of the five teens are now men in their 30s who have made claims of innocence. The fifth man had died before he could make a claim.
Jones, 61, died from a heart attack outside his Winston-Salem home after being tied up, beaten and robbed. Paul, his grandson, was a standout high-school basketball player at the time and now plays for the Oklahoma City Thunder.
Black testified at trial that she drove the teens around that night, including to a park near Jones’ home. She said she heard them talking about wanting to rob someone and that she heard them beat Jones.
She now says that police coerced her into implicating the teens. She said was scared of being sent to jail.
Prosecutors had secured first-degree-murder convictions against Nathaniel Arnold Cauthen, then 15 years old, and his brother, Rayshawn Denard Banner, then 14. Dorrell Brayboy, Christopher Levon Bryant and Jermal Tolliver, all 15 at the time, were convicted of second-degree murder.
Brayboy, Bryant and Tolliver have since been released from prison. Brayboy was fatally stabbed in front of a supermarket last year.
The innocence hearing is expected to last five days. If the commission finds sufficient evidence of innocence, it could forward the case to a panel of three superior court judges to decide whether they should be exonerated.
The commission has granted exonerations in 12 of the more than 2,700 claims it has reviewed since it began operating in 2007.