Judge taken off Tipton case
Accused killer’s lawyer to fight appellate court order for Thompson to step down
By Sheryl Marsh
A new judge might preside over the Karen Tipton murder case in the second trial of Daniel Wade Moore, the man accused of stabbing her to death.
The state Court of Criminal Appeals ordered Morgan County Circuit Judge Glenn Thompson to remove himself from the case. Moore’s attorney, Sherman Powell Jr., said he will appeal the decision all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, if he has to.
A ruling that the appellate court issued Friday states that Assistant Attorney General Don Valeska was successful in showing that it would be an “appearance of impropriety” for Thompson to remain on the case.
“After considering the long and tortured history in this case as well as the clear animosity between the judge and the prosecutor, we believe that it would be difficult, if not impossible for Judge Thompson to divorce himself from the previous proceedings in this case,” the ruling states.
Thompson denied a petition that Valeska filed asking him to get out of the case nine months ago. Valeska appealed the judge’s ruling to the higher court, saying the judge was not neutral and the state could not get a fair trial in his court.
In a response to Valeska’s petition to the appellate court, Thompson said the state would get a fair trial. He also said Valeska lied to the court during Moore’s first trial in 2002.
The appellate court based its ruling primarily on factors in a federal case.
“To recuse where there is an appearance of impropriety is a duty owed to the public in order to promote public confidence in the impartiality of the judiciary,” the federal case states.
The appellate ruling against Thompson outlines findings of fact that he made in an order dismissing capital charges against Moore in 2005. The court noted that Thompson addressed DNA evidence and an incriminating statement Moore made to his uncle.
“At the trial of the defendant, DNA evidence was presented by the prosecution. This evidence was not nuclear DNA which would have been able to identify the perpetrator with a very high degree of scientific certainty,” Thompson wrote in the 2005 order.
Concerning Moore’s statement that he was in the victim’s home when his friend killed Tipton, the judge wrote, “It is not at all uncommon for a person addicted to crack cocaine, especially one involved in a check kiting scheme, to make any statement, true or false, and even against his own interest to avoid being put in jail.”
Moore was a crack addict and wrote worthless checks at the time police charged him with Tipton’s March 12, 1999, stabbing death.
The appellate court ruling stated that it reviewed the record of Moore’s first trial as well as other documents and realizes Thompson’s frustration with the prosecutor’s failure to comply with his orders.
“However, the vital point is that in sitting in judgment on such a misbehaving lawyer the judge should not himself give vent to personal spleen or respond to a personal grievance. These are subtle matters for they concern the ingredients of what constitutes justice.”
Assistant Attorney General Will Dill, who helped Valeska prosecute Moore, said he’s pleased with Friday’s appellate ruling.
“I’ve talked to Dr. (David) Tipton (the victim’s husband) about this at length and he was relieved to hear the ruling and he believes that his family can now get a fair trial,” Dill said. “We remain extremely confident about the retrial of this case. This is a very strong DNA case with a ratio of 7.5 million to 1 that it was Moore’s DNA at the crime scene. We are confident that when a second jury hears this case they will reach the same results that the first one did.”
Thompson said it would be inappropriate for him to comment on the case.
Powell said he will appeal the ruling.
“We will appeal it to the state Supreme Court and then on to federal court if we have to,” said Powell. “Once again, Judge Thompson has tried to be fair and the dishonest prosecution gets anything they asked for. The judge gave us a new trial because the prosecution and police lied about the evidence and hid it. We’ve proven that Daniel Moore did not get a fair trial.”
Morgan County presiding Judge Steve Haddock said a decision about reassigning the case can’t be made until all appeals are exhausted.
Haddock explained that the defense lawyer could ask the appellate court to rehear the case and after that he could ask the state Supreme Court to review the appellate court ruling.
If the ruling for Thompson to get out of the case is not overturned on appeal, then the case will be reassigned, Haddock explained.
A jury convicted Moore, 33, of capital murder in November 2002 and recommended life without parole. Thompson sentenced him to death, but later set aside the conviction and sentence, and granted him a new trial. In February 2005 he dismissed the charges. The appellate court upheld the ruling for a new trial, but reversed the dismissal. The court remanded the case for a new trial, which Thompson set for July 30.
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