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Judge's decision sets Moore free
Conduct of prosecutor, officer cited

By Sheryl Marsh
DAILY Staff Writer 340-2437

Judge Glenn Thompson, saying prosecutors and police defied his orders to share evidence, freed the man he once sentenced to death in the murder of Karen Tipton.

Daniel Wade Moore, center, at the Hanceville Police Department with his stepfather, Gordon Byrd, right.
DAILY Photo by Dan Henry
Daniel Wade Moore, center, at the Hanceville Police Department with his stepfather, Gordon Byrd, right.
Daniel Wade Moore walked out of the Morgan County Jail on Friday evening, clear of capital murder charges in Tipton's March 12, 1999, stabbing death at her home on Chapel Hill Road Southwest in Decatur.

Unless the state can successfully appeal Friday's ruling, Moore will not stand trial again.

But Moore was not free to go right away. From Decatur, he was taken to the Hanceville City Jail to face a misdemeanor charge from 1999.

Hanceville released him about 7 p.m. after his family paid a $355 fine for a worthless check, according to his attorney, Sherman Powell Jr.

Thompson, who presided over Moore's trial in Morgan County Circuit Court, said another trial would place him in "double jeopardy."

Thompson's 17-page ruling criticized Assistant Attorney General Don Valeska, who tried the case, and Decatur police Sgt. Michael Pettey, who assisted in the investigation.

"When Assistant Attorney General Don Valeska and Investigator Mike Pettey willfully defied this court's orders they chose to defy justice," Thompson wrote.

A jury convicted Moore in November 2002 of capital murder, and Thompson sentenced him to death. But he later overturned the conviction and sentence, granting Moore a new trial. Friday's ruling is in response to a year-old motion to dismiss filed by Powell and co-counsel Catherine Halbrooks.

The ruling

"The double jeopardy clause (of the U.S. Constitution) protects a criminal defendant's interest in a single, fair adjudication of his guilt or innocence," Thompson wrote. "When the lack of fairness is intentionally caused by the government's overreaching and misconduct, the defendant is entitled to the protections of the constitutions of the United States and the state of Alabama. . . .

"The prosecution had its opportunity to place Daniel Wade Moore on trial, and they squandered that right."

Thompson said Valeska and Pettey denied the existence of evidence, including FBI documents, that might have cleared Moore — evidence to which the defense was entitled.

Thompson said when he questioned Valeska about an FBI report during a hearing in October 2002, he stated, "There ain't no such thing as an FBI report."

"All of the material in question here passed through the hands of the investigators for the Decatur Police Department or the Assistant Attorney General Don Valeska and should have been provided to the defense as ordered by this court," Thompson continued.

Thompson also mentioned statements from people whom police and prosecutors questioned.

He said DNA evidence did not rule out other potential suspects. "In fact, the trial of the defendant was based almost entirely on circumstantial evidence. There is no direct evidence linking the defendant to the scene of the crime."

Chief backs investigation

Decatur Police Chief Joel Gilliam said he was not aware of the judge's ruling, but stood behind the investigation.

"It was before the court, and we disposed of the case," Gilliam said. ". . . We feel our investigation was based on the evidence. It was up to the court and the district attorney to take it from there."

Gilliam said it would be up to the state to reopen the case.

A spokeswoman for the attorney general's office said no one was available for comment.

Powell said the state could file a petition with the state Court of Criminal Appeals claiming that the judge made a mistake in his ruling and ask for its review.

Moore, who has been in jail for 4 years for Tipton's death, appeared to be happy to leave the county jail Friday.

"I'm glad this is over. The truth is finally out, so it's over with now," Moore told reporters as he got into a Hanceville police vehicle.

Powell said he's elated about Moore's freedom and he knew the judge would make the right decision.

"It's what we said all along: If we had the evidence that was withheld, we would've gotten an acquittal at trial," Powell said. "A lot of work and research went into the judge's ruling. It's something you couldn't do in a jury. I think justice has been done."

Moore's mother, Virginia Byrd, his stepfather, Gordon Byrd, and other relatives took him out to eat after his release from jail in Hanceville.

"This was so sudden that we didn't have anything planned," Virginia Byrd said.

Attempts to reach the victim's husband, Dr. David Tipton, were unsuccessful. An acquaintance of the family said the psychiatrist and his daughters have moved to another state.

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