US & Canada

North Carolina man freed after 28 years in prison

Small wipes away a tear at his trial Image copyright AP
Image caption Small was overcome with emotion as the judge ordered him released

A North Carolina man who spent 28 years in prison on murder charges has been released after a judge ruled his trial was unfair.

Authorities will now consider whether Johnny Small, 43, should face a second trial in the 1988 murder of Pam Dreher.

Judge W Douglas Parsons ruled that there was not enough evidence to convict Small.

He also found that during the 1989 trial witnesses lied and police withheld key evidence.

On his first night in nearly 30 years outside of prison, Small slept on a cousin's sofa.

After years of sleeping in cell, he preferred sleeping in the open living room, rather than a smaller private bedroom.

"There's a lot I've got to adapt to," said Small who was first jailed when he was 16 years old.

"I don't know how to function. I mean, when I came into it (prison) I was still a kid and in a way I still got a kid's state of mind."

Image copyright AP
Image caption Pam Dreher was shot to death inside her tropical fish store

Small will be under electronic house arrest until prosecutors either press for a new trial, or drop the charges.

Judge Parsons' decision came after a friend of Small recanted the testimony he gave against him during the 1989 murder trial.

David Bollinger claimed that he has been pressured by a homicide investigator and family member to lie about driving Small to the scene of the murder.

Dreher was found dead in her tropical fish store. Police had said that Small shot and killed Dreher during a robbery. Small has always maintained his innocence.

Another witness account was also proven inaccurate.

Nina Raiford claimed to have been walking past Dreher's shop and witnessed Small leaving the store.

However her work timecards showed she was elsewhere.

She also had not come forward with her claim until after a cash reward had been offered, and she learned about the crime through news reports.

BBC News Special Report: The wrong man

Robert Jones was jailed for life when the real killer had already been convicted.

Read his story - TAP HERE.