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Man Released after 28 Years in Prison
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man freed from prison

Summary: After evidence used to put a teenager in prison for murder has been determined to be fabricated and false, the man now in his forties is being released from prison.

Convicted as a teenager, a North Carolina man is being released after serving 28 years behind bars. The judge in the case ruled that Johnny Small, now 43, did not receive a fair trial. Small can still be retried, but until then, he is enjoying life outside of prison.


Small’s attorney has asked for the case to be closed quickly since much of the evidence from the original trial has been discredited. Executive director of the North Carolina Center on Actual Innocence Chis Mumma explained, “Although Johnny and his family are relieved that he has been released, he is still subject to house arrest and restrictive pretrial conditions, as well as the prospect of being retried, despite the complete discrediting of the State’s case against him.”

Read After 10 Years Wrongful Imprisonment, Wisconsin Man Earns Law Degree.

Superior Court Judge W. Douglas Parsons found that the evidence, specifically a witness’s testimony, was not credible. The supposed eye witness that claimed to have seen Smalls leave the shop of victim Pam Dreher was not possible. The witness, Nina Raiford’s, punch card from a fast-food restaurant showed she was still at work at the time she claimed to have seen Small leaving the store. Parsons also said the police withheld key evidence. Dreher was shot in the head at point blank range on the floor of her tropical fish store.

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Parsons made it clear that by releasing Smalls, he was not declaring his innocence. He said, “What I’m here to decide is, did he receive a fair trial? It is more than abundantly clear that he did not.”

See U.S. Supreme Court Stays Execution of Man Attorneys Say Was Unfairly Sentenced Due to Question About Race During Trial.

Small’s childhood friend, David Bollinger, came forward to say the police pressured him into testifying that they were both at the store. Bollinger said a Wilmington homicide investigator made up the story for him to tell during the murder trial and that his grandfather pushed him to go along with it. He said the police would drop the charges against him if he cooperated or he would face the death penalty. Bollinger is prepared to face perjury charges for lying on the witness stand almost 30 years ago.

Without Bollinger’s testimony there is no gun, fingerprint, or blood-spattered clothing to tie Small to the crime.

Do you think investigators should reopen the investigation to see if any other evidence can be found? Tell us in the comments below.

To learn more about another inmate being released from prison, read Man Freed From Prison After Thirty Years, with Help of Willkie Farr Attorneys and Innocence Project.



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