When the pandemic started and live sports stopped airing, ESPN moved up the premiere of its multipart docuseries about Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls dynasty of the ’90s. With no sports to watch, The Last Dance did well in the ratings and brought attention to the Bulls teams from more than 20 years earlier.
Following in the footsteps of that documentary’s success was another Jordan-related docuseries, but one with a much darker topic. Moment of Truth looks into the 1993 murder of Jordan’s father, James. And the director believes the court system may have gotten it wrong in its verdict on the case.
What is ‘Moment of Truth’ about?
Moment of Truth is a five-episode docuseries that investigates James Jordan’s death and the ensuing trial. As GQ explains, the series uses a lot of archival material that is pretty revealing in some cases. In the first episode alone, there’s an intimate black-and-white picture of the Bulls star sitting with his father and smiling.
More important to the case, though, is “a buried vault of footage” of contemporary newscasts, including from Raleigh, N.C., TV station WRAL. Director Matthew Perniciaro uses the news footage to bring viewers back into the Carolinas in the ’90s. He digs into the mystery surrounding the elder Jordan’s murder, which is shrouded in conspiracy theories.
The murder of James Jordan and its aftermath
James disappeared one night while driving to Charlotte, but it was weeks before he was reported missing. A couple of weeks later, his red Lexus was found stripped in the woods. A day after the car was discovered, his body was found, with a single gunshot wound in the chest, 60 miles away at the bottom of a river. It would take 10 more days for the body to be identified.
Teenage friends Daniel Green and Larry Demery, who had made calls from the car’s phone, were arrested for the death. Demery admitted to being involved in the murder, but he claimed Green pulled the trigger. To this day, Green maintains his innocence. Both men remain in prison. Demery is slated for release in 2023 after being granted parole, while Green is serving a life sentence.
As you’d expect, the murder had a profound impact on Michael. He retired from the NBA three months after his father’s death and decided to pursue a baseball crew, joining the Chicago White Sox’s minor-league system. The New York Times reported at the time that trying baseball was originally James’ idea, after seeing athletes like Deion Sanders and Bo Jackson succeeding in multiple sports.
James thought Michael could succeed in baseball. When he started playing the latter, Michael said it was fulfilling both his dream and his father’s. The NBA star elaborated that James told his son “it’s never too late to do anything you wanted to do” and you don’t know if you can do it until you try.
Director Matthew Perniciaro’s thoughts on Daniel Green’s involvement
Perniciaro is outspoken when asked what he thinks about who killed James. He doesn’t believe the true story of the murder will ever be known, but he believes “there is enough question of fact in this case that Daniel Green deserves a new hearing.” He says he thinks Green had “a degree of ineffective assistance of counsel in his original trial” and “there are a lot of questions about the evidence that has been proven inaccurate.”
The director says Green deserves a new hearing, which he has been denied in multiple attempts. As a filmmaker, Perniciaro refused give his opinion on Green’s guilt or innocence, but did say he thinks that “the facts say that there needs to be a new hearing.”