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North Carolina woman recants story that put 4 Black teens in jail for years

Jessicah Black 33, wept on the stand as she was questioned by the state’s Innocence Inquiry Commission.

By Blue Telusma, The Grio

A North Carolina woman has recanted her original testimony that implicated five Black teens in the 2002 murder of local man Nathaniel Jones.

According to the Winston-Salem Journal, last week, Jessicah Black, 33, wept on the stand as she was questioned by the state’s Innocence Inquiry Commission.

Black was visibly distraught throughout her hearing with the commission in the state capital of Raleigh and expressed remorse for her part in getting the teens thrown behind bars.

“I’m so sorry for what happened,” Black explained to the commission, which is tasked with reviewing the case and then determining whether the young men were falsely convicted of murder. “I am so sorry for (Jones’ family’s) loss, and I’m sorry that things went like they did … I’m just sorry.”

Jones, a God-fearing businessman and pillar of his community, was also the grandfather of NBA star Chris Paul. In November 2002 he was found beaten to death and bound in his Winston-Salem carport after what appeared to be a robbery.

At the time, Black’s testimony went a long way in helping to put all five youths at the scene away for murder. But she’s now come forward to reveal she lied out of fear.

“I feel like they got what they wanted,” she testified Monday during in a videotaped deposition played by the agency.

Black claims she was coerced by detectives to implicate the teens in Jones’ murder and only complied after they convinced her that she might be charged if she didn’t say exactly what they wanted.

Jermal Tolliver and Christopher Levon Bryant were found guilty of second-degree murder and subsequently sentenced to a minimum of 14 years in prison. Brothers Nathaniel Cauthen and Rayshawn Denard Banner are serving life sentences with the possibility of parole after being convicted in Jones’ killing in 2004. And a fifth man, Dorrell Brayboy was released but tragically stabbed to death outside a local grocery store in 2019.

The men, now in their 30s, were just 14 and 15 when they were convicted.

A local NBC affiliate reports that on March 13 the commission ruled there was sufficient evidence to recommend new trials for the men. A panel of three superior court judges will decide whether they should be exonerated.

This article originally appeared in The Grio.

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