Man reacts to prison release after 28 years - WECT TV6-WECT.com:News, weather & sports Wilmington, NC

Man reacts to prison release after 28 years

Johnny Small is greeted by family and friends after being released on Thursday. (Source: WECT) Johnny Small is greeted by family and friends after being released on Thursday. (Source: WECT)
Johnny Small leaves prison after posting bond on Thursday. (Source: WECT) Johnny Small leaves prison after posting bond on Thursday. (Source: WECT)
Judge: NC man convicted of  murder at 15 can be released on bond . (Source: WXII) Judge: NC man convicted of murder at 15 can be released on bond . (Source: WXII)
WILMINGTON, NC (WECT) -

As he walked out of prison for the first time in nearly three decades Thursday, Johnny Small noted he was scared.

"Just being out," Small said. "I've been locked up for so long, I don't know what it's like."

Small was released from prison and put on house arrest after a judge ruled there was not evidence for him to have been convicted of a murder in Wilmington in 1988.  When he was locked up, Small was only 15 years old. He has maintained his innocence for decades.

"I know it wasn't me, I'll put my life on that," Small said.

The judge based his decision after new testimony this week from a teenage friend of Small.  David Bollinger said a homicide investigator in Wilmington made up the story regarding the murder of Pam Dreher and his grandfather pressured him to lie. 

"We believe he is completely innocent so, it's a step towards justice but there is a bigger step that needs to be taken," Christine Mumma, Small's defense attorney, said.

After the judge's decision, New Hanover County District Attorney Ben David released the following statement.

It is the goal of every criminal investigation and trial to seek the truth, and to make sure that justice is done. Individual rights are protected by the Constitution and procedures are set forth to ensure those rights are upheld. Today, the Honorable W. Douglas Parsons ruled that the conviction of Johnny Small for the murder of Pam Dreher should be vacated on procedural grounds. The Court did not find that Mr. Small is actually innocent.

The appeals of Mr. Small’s conviction over the last nearly 30 years and the Motion for Appropriate relief heard this week have been handled by the North Carolina Attorney General’s Office. Now that the charges against Mr. Small revert to pending status, members of my office will meet with members of the Attorney General’s Office and the Wilmington Police Department to determine whether any additional investigation should be conducted or additional charges should be filed. As this is a pending case, we are prohibited from making further comment.

"I hope they do the right thing and let justice come through like it should," Small said as he went home with his family for the first time in 28 years.

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