A hearing began Monday for Johnny Small, who has been incarcerated for 28 years for a murder he maintains he did not commit.
In July of 1988, Pamela Dreher was found shot to death in the pet store she bought only three months prior. A tip led police to Small’s childhood friend David Bollinger, who said he drove Small to the pet store on the day of the murder. He said that Small later admitted to killing Dreher and threatened to kill Bollinger if he told anyone. He told the same story at Small’s jury trial.
After hearing Bollinger’s testimony, the jury found Small guilty and a judge sentenced him to life in prison plus 16 years. Small’s attorneys at the North Carolina Center on Actual Innocence told the Washington Post that, without Bollinger’s testimony, Small would have never been found guilty.
At a party in 2012, Bollinger met exoneree Dwayne Allen Dail. According to the Washington Post, Dail, who was also represented by the North Carolina Center on Actual Innocence, told Bollinger about his wrongful conviction and the 18 years he spent behind bars for a crime he did not commit. After his conversation with Dail, Bollinger contacted the North Carolina Center on Actual Innocence and told them he lied when he testified against Small.
Bollinger said his testimony was coerced and that police said he would be convicted of murder and sentenced to death if he did not testify. He admitted to attorneys at the Center on Actual Innocence that he was not even with Small on the day of the murder.
On Monday, Bollinger recanted his testimony in front of a Superior Court judge at the first of a series of hearings to determine whether Small was wrongfully convicted. Small also testified, expressing his condolences to Dreher’s family and stating that he had nothing to do with her murder.
“I swear on my life I didn’t do it,” he said, according to the Post.
Read the Washington Post coverage here.