Johnny Small has spent 28 years in prison for a murder of a woman he was convicted of when he was 15. He now faces the possibility of freedom, after a childhood friend who was a key prosecution witness admitted he lied.
In 1989, a judge sentenced Mr Small to life imprisonment for the murder of 32-year-old Pam Dreher, and till this day Mr Small maintains he was innocent.
His mother who he has not seen for 6 years died from illness in February after getting tired over making long trips to visit him in prison. Small says he cries till this day whenever he thinks of her.
Small said he contemplated committing suicide as he was constantly denied parole and all he could do was just sit down and watch his life fade away right before his very eyes.
“I used to sit out in that yard, looking at that fence, just thinking of just climbing on up and making them shoot me off it,” he said, speaking of the prison yard, according to WWAY.
In 2012, David Bollinger, Small’s childhood friend who was the key witness against him in the 1988 trial, contacted the North Carolina Center on Actual Innocence to shockingly admit that he lied on the stand in 1988, and he doesn’t think Small killed anyone. David Bollinger said that a detective forced him to testify against Small. Bollinger said the detective threatened him with the death penalty if he did not do as he was told.
Bollinger who was only 19 years old and scared for his life at the time of the first trial said he now feels he needs to come forward and do the right thing.
The story of how Smalls got wrongly accused and imprisoned;
On July 13, 1988, 32-year-old Pamela Dreher’s body was found facedown in Tropical Paradise, the pet store she owned on Wrightsville Avenue in Wilmington. She’d owned the shop for three short months.
There was a single gunshot wound in the back of her head, and $173 was missing from the register. Confusingly, her purse and jewelry remained untouched.
An autopsy report revealed the slaying to be more of an execution than a crime of passion according to Wilmington Star.
According to the report, a barrel of a handgun was pressed against her head when she was killed, police who were shocked by the crime offered $5000 for anyone who had information on the case.
So Nina Raiford, a high school classmate of Small’s, hearing of the $5,000 reward, called police and informed them she was walking by the pet store at the time of the killing and claimed to have seen Small exit the store. This information led police to Bollinger, Small’s close friend.
When police questioned Bollinger, he initially denied knowing anything about the murder but later changed his story and said he drove the then 15-year-old Small to the pet shop so he could use a pay phone there. At that point, Small entered the store, robbed it and killed Dreher.
Bollinger also told police that Small left the store wearing a different shirt and that he held Bollinger at gunpoint, told him that he had robbed the store and was forced to kill Dreher and that Bollinger would be killed if he exposed him.
That testimony by Bollinger is what put Mr Small in prison.
On Monday, Smalls from Wilmington appeared in court to face Superior Court judge W. Douglas Parsons to get his death sentence ruling overturned.
“There is more than a reasonable possibility that had Bollinger’s testimony not been admitted at Small’s trial, a different result would have been reached,” the motion filed by Small’s attorney stated.
They questioned and interrogated me one night, and the rest of the time it was coaching — telling me what to say,” Bollinger said on Monday at the court hearing, according to the Star. I lied on him,” Bollinger said, “(The investigator) told me, if I didn’t say (that Small did it), he was going to prosecute me for murder, and I would get the death penalty.”
“I’m sorry. I was forced to do something I didn’t want to do and I can’t take it back,” Bollinger said, looking at Small who raised his wrists, still handcuffed together, to dab tears from his eyes, the Associated Press reported.
The court hearing will last for a week.
Source: Wilmington Star