One of two key witnesses who identified rapper Corey “C-Murder” Miller as the lone gunman in a 2002 nightclub killing in Harvey has recanted, claiming in a sworn statement that Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office detectives pressured him to lie under threat of a criminal charge.
Miller’s attorney, Paul Barker, filed a memorandum Tuesday in 24th Judicial District Court, arguing that the newly obtained affidavit from the witness, Kenneth Jordan, warrants a hearing and, ultimately, Miller's release.
Miller, 47, is the younger brother of Percy Miller, the rap mogul better known as Master P.
His claims of innocence, broadcast in rap albums released from the Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola, where he is serving a life sentence, have helped fuel interest in the case and drum up support for his cause. It's the subject of an episode that airs Wednesday in a true-crime series on Investigations Discovery.
Jordan also recants in the TV episode, saying he was threatened with a 10-year sentence over the death of his child if he didn’t finger Miller as the nightclub shooter.
“If I could turn back the hands of time, I wouldn’t have did it. In that moment it felt like that’s what I had to do,” he says in the TV episode.
Jordan testified at Miller’s trial in 2009 that he was inside the Platinum Club on Manhattan Boulevard in the early morning of Jan. 12, 2002, when 16-year-old Steve Thomas stepped off the stage during a rap contest and was attacked by several patrons.
He told the jury that Thomas was mobbed and fighting for his life and that he never saw Miller throw any punches. But when the fracas subsided, he said, Miller stepped forward, stood over Thomas and shot him once. Jordan testified that he saw flames from the gun. The bullet struck Thomas in the heart.
But in his new affidavit, dated June 23, Jordan claims he saw a man with a dark complexion and wearing a hoodie fire the fatal shot.
“I know that the individual who I saw shoot the gun was not Corey Miller,” he states in the affidavit.
Well over 100 people remained in the club but told officers who had locked it down that they didn’t see the shooting.
Jordan had left in the chaotic aftermath of the shooting. Sheriff’s Office detectives first spoke to him more than a year later, after his newborn daughter had been found dead. The baby’s mother would later be charged and convicted in the killing, but at the time, Jordan said, he was being threatened with a criminal charge.
“I was distraught and scared,” Jordan claims in the affidavit. “JPSO officers told me that if I testified against Corey Miller I could ‘go home’; they told me what to say; they fed me facts about the fight and details about the DJ and the dance party, none of which I really knew.”
Prosecutors did not call Jordan to testify at Miller’s first trial, in 2003. A jury convicted Miller, but the trial judge later threw out the guilty verdict, ruling that it was tainted by prosecutors' withholding of information about the criminal background of a witness. The Louisiana Supreme Court endorsed the judge’s ruling.
Jordan claims Jefferson Parish deputies harassed him and his family in the years between trials. Shortly before Miller’s retrial in 2009, deputies hauled him in from Georgia and jailed him on a material witness bond.
“I told the JPSO officers that my 2003 statement was not the truth, but the officers forced me to testify anyway,” the affidavit states. “They kept saying, ‘It’s on black and white now, too late.’ ”
Whether Jordan’s recantation is enough to overturn a conviction that has withstood several legal attacks remains to be seen.
In his legal filing Tuesday, Barker argued that the recantation raises several constitutional issues, among them a requirement that prosecutors turn over any evidence, including witness statements, that would favor a defendant at trial.
“On countless occasions (both prior to making his statement and prior to testifying at trial), Mr. Jordan told members of law enforcement and prosecution that his 2003 recorded statement to the JPSO officers was not true, that the person he saw commit the shooting was definitely not Corey Miller, and that he did not want to lie under oath about Corey’s involvement,” Barker wrote.
“At no time during the 15+ years of proceedings in this tortured case has the state once disclosed this information to Mr. Miller himself, or to Mr. Miller’s attorneys.”
Barker is also reasserting an “actual innocence” claim, which would require a judge to rule that Jordan’s recantation is new, “conclusive” evidence that undermines the state’s entire case.
Jordan’s testimony at Miller’s second trial, implicating the rapper, was supported by that of a security guard at the club who also identified Miller as the gunman.
But in the new episode of the TV program "Reasonable Doubt," the security guard, Darnell Jordan, appears to recant as well. He asserts in the program that he doesn't believe it was Miller who fired the shot, though Miller was involved in the fight that led to the gunfire.
In the program, Darnell Jordan describes grabbing Miller during the fracas, causing the rapper's shirt to lift and showing there was no gun in his waistband.
Miller’s claim that he had been talking to the club’s DJ was contradicted at the trial by the DJ.
A jury convicted Miller on a 10-2 vote. His last appeal was denied in 2011. Nearly all of his claims under a motion for post-conviction relief were thrown out, and the Louisiana Supreme Court refused to upset that ruling in 2016. What remain are two claims of ineffective assistance of counsel.
In the meantime, the rapper has released four albums from prison. They include “Penitentiary Chances,” an April 2016 release that spawned a music video for the song “Dear Supreme Court,” in which Miller implored the state’s high court to free him.
Last year, a Jefferson Parish judge ordered Miller to pay Thomas’ family $1.15 million.
Miller also was found liable in a separate civil case in Baton Rouge stemming from a botched nightclub shooting there in 2001. Those plaintiffs asked a judge last year to seize any earnings Miller might have.
In the Baton Rouge incident, Miller was accused of trying to shoot a bouncer and club owner at Club Raggs on Plank Road, only to have his gun jam. He pleaded no contest to attempted second-degree murder there and was sentenced to 10 years in prison.
Kenneth Jordan could face a felony charge should he take the stand and recant his identification of Miller as the shooter in the Harvey incident. Under a Louisiana perjury statute, prosecutors wouldn’t need to prove on which occasion he lied, only that he gave inconsistent statements on the stand.
The penalty for perjury in a murder case is five to 40 years in prison.
On the TV episode, Corey Miller's ex-wife, Dionne, and daughter, Alexis, found little comfort in the remorse Kenneth Jordan showed as he recanted on camera.
"To see that, it's too little, too late," Alexis said after being shown the footage by the TV show's investigators, Fatima Silva and Chris Anderson, who are helping the Miller family.
Dionne said, "I am just so mad about this. How could you even be that heartless to do this?"
Citing other interviews conducted by the TV program's investigators, the episode builds a theory that Miller knows who fired the gun that killed Thomas but won't say because of a street code prohibiting "snitching."
"Let me tell you something about me," Miller says during a telephone interview played on the episode. "You ain't never gonna hear nothing come out my mouth pointing the finger at nobody else. That just ain't gonna happen. That's just the way I live. That's the way I come up."
Jefferson Parish District Attorney Paul Connick's office declined comment, citing a policy against discussing unresolved legal matters.
The attorney representing Thomas' family said Tuesday that his clients found the upcoming TV program and Kenneth Jordan's sworn statement Tuesday to be "very disturbing." Trey Mustian said the details of Kenneth Jordan's precarious legal situation during Miller's second trial were fleshed out extensively, and he questioned why Jordan didn't take the witness stand during the first trial.
"I was at the first trial, and the defense that was put on had four separate witnesses who placed C-Murder at four separate locations doing four separate things," Trey Mustian said, in part. "If Mr. Jordan was saying at that time that Corey Miller was not the shooter, he would have been an important witness."