A key witness said she lied in court after being under pressure from law enforcement.
FORSYTH COUNTY, N.C. — The murder of NBA star Chris Paul’s grandfather is being brought back to the forefront.
A three-judge panel in Forsyth County is listening to evidence about Paul’s grandfather, Nathaniel Jones. In November 2002, Jones, 61, was beaten to death, a year before Paul enrolled at Wake Forest University.
The North Carolina Center on Actual Innocence said four of the men should be exonerated after an N.C. Innocence Inquiry Commission found evidence of their innocence exists.
Two years after Jones’ death, brothers Rayshawn Banner and Nathaniel Cauthen were convicted of murder and robbery. In 2005, three others were also held accountable for the death. All five were teens at the time of their arrest and have stood by their innocence. Since then, these five teens have been referred to as the “Winston-Salem 5.”
The state said one person couldn’t have beaten this man. These teens have had more than a hundred run-ins with the law.
“These aren’t your average 14- and 15-year-olds. Before the murder, they had a collective, more than 140 contacts with law enforcement,” state officials said. “Evidence of factual innocence is not what you have before you.”
In 2020, an eight-member panel of N.C. Innocence Inquiry Commission held a hearing to review the innocence claims. At the hearing, a key witness recanted her testimony. She said she lied in court because law enforcement pressured her.
No DNA testing was done during the pretrial even though, DNA testing was available in 2002.
The defense said it believes it was coerced compliant false confession and that is why the boys confessed to the murder.
“We are here to prove they are innocent and we are confident that it’ll be ruled that they are,” the defense said.
Based on how much the courts have changed in reference to juveniles, the evidence would not be admissible in court in 2022 as it was in 2002, the defense said.
The Commission found “sufficient evidence of innocence to merit judicial review.”
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