Four black men incarcerated in the state of North Carolina may finally be granted freedom if a judicial integrity panel considers new evidence, which clearly exonerates them.
According to the Winston-Salem Journal newspaper, Jessicah Black (pictured) was grilled by members of the North Carolina Innocence Inquiry Commission in a deposition last week. In a series of hearings, Black, 33, was scrutinized for the testimony she gave as a key witness at two separate murder trials, which sent five black male teens to prison for many years.
However, at a hearing on March 10, Black (who was 16-years-old at the time of the crime), told the commission panel that the testimony she gave at both murder trials was a lie.
These murder trials were undertaken after the fatal 2002 robbery of Nathaniel Jones in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. Jones, 61, was the grandfather of NBA point guard Chris Paul. Nathaniel Cauthen, Rayshawn Banner, Christopher Bryant, Jermal Tolliver, and Dorrell Brayboy were the five teenage black males who were sentenced to prison for the crime.
Cauthen and Banner were sentenced to life. Bryant and Tolliver were convicted of lesser felonies associated with the 2002 crime. They were released after serving over a decade in prison. All four of these men are in their 30s now. Brayboy was also released after serving substantial time but he was murdered well before Black recanted her testimony.
Black claims police detectives coerced her into blaming the five males for the crime and placing them at the scene where it happened. Black also said that she was under the impression that she would be jailed if cops did not hear from her what they were hoping to hear.
“I feel like they got what they wanted,” she told the commission.
Black sobbed uncontrollably during questioning and apologized for giving false testimony under oath, which is essentially a serious crime called perjury.
“I’m so sorry for what happened. I’m so sorry for [the] loss [of the victim’s family] and I’m sorry that things went like they did…I’m just sorry,” Black said at the hearing.
Cauthen, Banner, Bryant, and Tolliver have all filed not guilty claims with the North Carolina Innocence Inquiry Commission. This is an ongoing case.