Convicted of murder as a teen, man now has shot at freedom

WILMINGTON, N.C. (AP) — Johnny Small was just 15 when police came to arrest him in 1988 — so young he assumed he was in trouble over curfew.

Instead, police charged him with first-degree murder of the owner of a tropical fish store — a place Small says he never even visited.

He was sentenced to life behind bars, mainly on a co-defendant’s testimony. That man has since recanted.

Now, at 43, Small has a chance at freedom. A hearing is scheduled to begin Monday. The judge could vacate the conviction, order a new trial or uphold the conviction.

In an interview with The Associated Press from prison, Small says he’s grateful the man came forward, even though it took decades. If he’s released, he says, he will leave Wilmington and get a job.

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