News from the Tennessee Valley Opinion
TUESDAY, JULY 25, 2006


Moore ruling still leaves room for state's abuse

Morgan County Circuit Judge Glenn Thompson thought the prosecutorial misconduct in the trial of Daniel Wade Moore was so egregious he overturned his murder conviction and tossed the case out of court. It was a controversial and extreme step for a judge, especially after he presided over the trial.

He said a second trial would amount to double jeopardy for the young man accused of killing Decatur housewife Karen Tipton in 1999.

The Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals reversed Judge Thompson last week and ordered a new trial, saying the judge's action was extreme.

Perhaps, but the judge so disliked the way Assistant Attorney General Don Valeska prosecuted the case, he felt he had to take some decisive action.

One of the major points defense attorneys raised had to do with "exculpatory evidence" being withheld which they felt would have helped their client.

The appeals court partially agreed with Judge Thompson, saying Mr. Moore was prejudiced at his first trial.

Disappointingly, Attorney General Troy King, who won the Republican nomination for a full term in May, was silent on any alleged misconduct. Instead, he hailed the court's decision and sounded upbeat for a retrial.

And in waiting so long to order a new trial, the appeals court seemed reluctant to appear soft on crime instead of being quick to right a wrong. It took the court more than a year to rule.

After the November 2002 trial, Judge Thompson ignored the jury's recommendation of life in prison and sentenced Mr. Moore to death. He then surprisingly overturned the conviction and ordered the indictment dropped.

The public doesn't know all the facts that went into the judge's actions, but he must have felt strongly about the trial being unfair to have exposed himself to public ridicule and the likely possibility of a reversal.

If the trial was unfair, or prejudiced, as the court ruled, what about the next time? Will a judge be courageous enough to take extreme action?

More than a welcomed opportunity to retry Mr. Moore should come from the attorney general. He should still address the factors that went into Judge Bucky McMillan's written opinion that Mr. Moore "was prejudiced at his first trial."

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