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Defendants in the murder of Nathaniel Jones get chance at freedom after witness recants testimony

Defendants in the murder of Nathaniel Jones get chance at freedom after witness recants testimony
March 26
04:50 2020

Less than a week after North Carolina Innocence Inquiry Commission recommended a new trial for the five men convicted in 2002 killing of Nathaniel Jones, NBA Superstar Chris Paul’s grandfather, Chief Justice Cheri Beasley has assigned the members of the three-judge panel that will oversee the hearing. 

Superior Court Judge R. Allen Baddour Jr., Senior Resident Superior Court Judge John M. Dunlow, and Superior Court Judge Karen Eady-Williams, will hear evidence in the cases of the State versus Rayshawn Banner, Christopher Bryant, Nathaniel Cauthen, and Jermal Tolliver, and decide if the men who were teenagers at the time murdered Jones in his home nearly two decades ago. 

According to reports, Jones was tied up, beaten, and robbed in his home on Nov. 15, 2002, and left for dead. An autopsy showed he died from a heart attack. Following the initial trial, five teens, Banner, Bryant, Cauthen, Tolliver, and Dorrell Brayboy, were all convicted. 

Banner and Cauthen were charged with first-degree murder and sentenced to life with the eligibility for parole. Bryant, Tolliver, and Brayboy were charged with second-degree murder and common law robbery. Bryant, Tolliver, Brayboy have all since been released. 

Banner, Cauthen, Bryant, Tolliver and Brayboy have always claimed they were innocent and three different claims have been filed with the NCIIC. Earlier this month, the NCIIC finally agreed to hold a hearing. 

Brayboy is not listed in the retrial because he was murdered earlier this year. 

During the initial trial, Jessicah Black, a key witness for the state, testified that she drove the boys around on the night of Jones’ murder and heard them talking about robbing someone. Although she never admitted to seeing the boys commit the crime, she did say she heard Jones being beaten. In a deposition played during the NCIIC’s hearing earlier this month, Black recanted her testimony and said she was coerced into making the statement. 

It is also important to note that NCIIC submitted several DNA samples from the crime scene and none of them matched any of the defendants. 

While Chief Justice Cheri Beasley has made her choice on the three panel judges that will preside over the retrial, a date has not yet been set. It could be months or even years before a date is set.

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Tevin Stinson

Tevin Stinson

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