Free Unjolee Moore!

Post-Hearing Rebuttal

It is was with great dismay and anger that we learned of Judge Don Poole’s finding in the post-conviction hearing of Unjolee Moore. On August 13th, 2018 Attorney Daniel Murphy presented concrete evidence that clearly supports our beloved community member, son, and brother in his effort to be granted a new trial. Unjolee Moore has lost eight years of his life because of a wrongful conviction; misconduct by the Chattanooga Police Department; and the highly ineffective council of state appointed Attorney Garth Best.

We recognize that granting Unjolee Moore a new trial would mean that Judge Poole would have to admit his own faults in properly examining the case. Nonetheless, we had hope that the post-conviction hearing would encourage Poole to take this opportunity to be on the right side of history.  Judge Poole’s unwillingness to acknowledge his own failure in appointing Mr. Moore with an inexperienced attorney is perpetuating Mr. Moore’s immoral and inhumane incarceration. During the hearing, Garth Best admitted to being unfit to take on Mr. Moore’s case, having had only 2 years of practice and having never been assigned to a homicide case. Judge Poole’s findings in Mr. Moore’s post-conviction hearing are riddled with misrepresentations of the case and incorrect interpretations of the defense’s evidence.

Page 24 of Judge Poole’s memorandum states, “Mr. Moore’s trial counsel, Attorney Garth Best, was said to have reviewed phone records, but not the phone records (Exhibits 1-3) presented during the post-conviction hearing, ‘which include post-conviction counsel’s notes’.” This is incorrect. Attorney Garth Best stated during the hearing that there were no cell phone records in the master case file when he was the defense attorney on this case.  This can be further confirmed in Mr. Moore’s original trial transcript in which Attorney Best asked Detective Wenger where the phone records were located. The handwritten notes on the phone records were not made by post-conviction counsel. The phone records came from the master case file that was composed of documents from the State, the DA, Detective Wenger, and any other police officials that were involved in the investigative process of this case. Detective Wenger and the DA’s office possessed these phone records and knew in 2010 that Mr. Moore was innocent, based off of the phone records that they produced.

Furthermore, on page 24 of Judge Poole’s memorandum, he goes on to say, “Cell-phone transmissions go through the nearest cell-phone tower.  The numbers in the cell-phone records represent cell-phone towers that were very close to the scene.” The phone records actually shows that Mr. Moore was not close to the scene. None of the cell towers found in the cell phone record documents include a cell tower in or near 4417 Oakwood Drive, the scene of the crime,  or even near the Highway 58 area generally. The living witness stated in the trial that on June 28, 2010 the suspects knocked on the door at 11:30pm. Cell phone records show that at approximately 11:26 pm, Mr. Moore was near a cell phone tower located at 1521 Riverside Drive. Moore’s location pinged again from the same cell tower at 11:29pm.  This Riverside Drive cell tower is 7.7 miles away from 4417 Oakwood Drive, the scene of the crime. Cell phone records show that at approximately 11:40 pm, Mr. Moore was near a cell phone tower located at 2338 McCallie Ave. This McCallie Avenue cell tower is 7.8 miles away from the scene of the crime. Traveling from Riverside Drive toward McCallie Avenue is traveling in the opposite direction of the Highway 58 area. Unjolee Moore was not only nowhere near the crime scene, but was actually moving further and further away at the time.

Judge Poole’s memorandum states that “Mr. Moore pled guilty to having a cell phone in the state penitentiary”, that he “testified he was born on February”, and “denied to consent of search”; all of which are completely false. Mr. Moore has never been charged for having a cell phone in the state penitentiary; never pled guilty to having one; and never stated in the post-conviction hearing any such allegation. Mr. Moore never said that he was born in February.  He was born on March 22, 1986. Mr. Moore did not deny consent of search. He stated that he was not the owner of the house and that they would have to ask the owner of the house, his mother Annette Parker-Thompson, for permission. Both Ms. Parker and his step-father, Mr. Maurice Thompson along with Mr. Moore, gave verbal and written permission to search their home. (Please reference attached documents Consent to Search 1 and Consent to Search 2).

On page 8 of Judge Poole’s memorandum, he states that Mr. Moore confirmed the information on his rights waiver to be correct and that is also false.  Mr. Moore stated the exact opposite. Mr. Moore stated that a phone number, his highest level of education, and the signature on the rights waiver were all incorrect.  Mr. Moore testified to have never seen the rights waiver form.  The rights waiver form has three interviewers listed: Detective Wenger, Officer Narramore, and ATF Agent Smith.  None of the interviewers signed as a witness to Mr. Moore signing the document and a handwriting analysis was not conducted for Mr. Moore’s signature.  However, signatures can be found on the witness line of rights waiver forms for other suspects in this case. (Please reference Collier Rights Waiver, McKinney Rights Waiver, Middlebrooks Rights Waiver, Moore Rights Waiver).

Ideally we’d hoped that Judge Poole would be as concerned with the crediblity of the State’s eyewitnesses as the community is. Police report testimonies state that the car seen involved in the crime was gold. On the other hand, the police report states that the car Mr. Moore was found in was silver. Then, in Poole’s post-conviction finding, he stated that Mr. Moore was arrested in a purple car “like the suspected vehicle”.  None of the colors mentioned by eyewitnesses match the color of the car Mr. Moore was driving. On page 40 of Poole’s memorandum, he mentions a contradiction regarding testimony about the location of Mr. Moore at the time of the incident. Mr. Moore never stated that he was getting Ms. Rucker from school. However, Mr. Moore indeed stated that Ms. Rucker and himself visited his little brother, John Hudson, during the time of the incident.  John Hudson’s testimony confirms Mr. Moore’s testimony and the cell phone records corroborate both of their testimonies. Judge Poole has gotten Ms. Rucker confused with another party who gave a statement back in July 2010 and has used the statement of said party to contradict Mr. Moore and his brother’s testimony. However, said party did not testify at the trial, nor did said party testify at the post-conviction hearing or provide an affidavit of any sort.  Therefore, Judge Poole has allowed a statement that by law is considered hearsay and is using it as a supporting factor in his judgment of denying post-conviction relief for Mr. Moore.

On page 24 of Judge Poole’s memorandum, he states that Attorney Garth Best says eyewitnesses are better than cell phone records. Well, according to the statements and testimonies of two living witnesses, Mr. Moore was not one of the suspects that they saw at the scene of the crime.  These statements were made and documented by police on the night of the crime. These statements were also made, and documented again, in the preliminary hearing and trial transcripts. (Please reference Cross Statement and Timothy Westfield Statement). On page 26 of Poole’s memorandum, he states that Pastor Bullard was uncomfortable with testifying. However, Pastor Bullard was in attendance to testify the day of Mr. Moore’s trial.  He was also in attendance to testify at the second date made for the post-conviction hearing at which a continuance was proposed and granted by Judge Poole. Pastor Bullard was not in attendance at the August 13th post-conviction hearing due to a previously scheduled engagement out of town. If Mr. Moore had been given a fair trial, his attorney would have called the multiple witnesses that were waiting to give a testimony in his defense. Those witnesses were never called by the state-appointed attorney, Garth Best.

Additionally, the Chattanooga Police Department’s engagement in police brutality and official misconduct should have informed Judge Poole’s decision. It is a shame that police testimony is given more credibility than physical evidence.  Judge Poole’s ruling and memorandum fails to mention the medical records that show Mr. Moore’s bruise under his left eye and lacerations to his wrist that are all believed to have been from the CPD. Medical records were submitted on Erlanger Hospital’s official letterhead and signed by medical officials.  An image provided by Hamilton County Jail officials showing Mr. Moore with a bruise under his left eye was submitted by Mr. Moore’s post-conviction counsel. CPD officer Michael Wenger was implicated in cases of police brutality in 2004, again in 2006, and was also named as an officer involved in the beating of Adam Tatum in 2012. CPD Detective Michael Wenger handcuffed Mr.Moore to a chair for thirteen hours, and punched him in the face. Unjolee Moore never actually confessed, he just wanted to say anything that would end the cruel and brutal form of torture. The only shred of evidence that the state had against Mr.Moore is an incomplete and inconsistent recording where Mr. Moore is allegedly confessing to the these crimes. Mr. Moore’s  Miranda Rights were never read to him and he wasn’t even aware that investigator Michael Wenger was recording him.

Detective Wenger stated during Mr. Moore’s trial that Mr. Moore was a suspect because of his name being given by Myra Collier and that phone records could place him at the scene of the crime. However, records show that police knew and documented that Ms. Myra Collier was an original suspect of this case. Police noted that Myra Collier gave inconsistent statements and lied. Myra Collier is the niece of CPD Lieutenant Edwin McPherson, and the police internal affairs report confirms that McPherson was guilty of untruthfulness regarding this very case as a result of ordering a detective not to collect a phone that potentially held exculpatory evidence.

The combination of phone record evidence, several eyewitnesses stating Mr.Moore was not at the scene of the crime, and the total lack of scientific, DNA or forensic evidence linking Mr.Moore to the crime, all should have resulted in a granting of post-conviction relief. It is an absolute disgrace that Unjolee Moore he has been denied post-conviction relief.  The community has every right to be concerned that this case is another example of the State continuing to produce and ignore wrongful convictions. This case represents the State’s complicity with police brutality, official misconduct and perjury. Unjolee Moore is innocent and the only thing that has been proven by Judge Poole’s finding is the unjust nature of the criminal (in)justice system. We know that there are countless cases like Unjolee Moore’s across Chattanooga. The fight to prove Mr.Moore’s innocence shines a light on the system that produces wrongful convictions, ineffective public defense, as well as the violent and oppressive relationship that the State has to the lives of Black, Brown, poor and working class people.

-Concerned Citizens for Justice (CCJ)

The #FreeUnjolee Series

Learn about the case and how it’s connected to systemic injustice in Chattanooga

Episode 1: The Case

Episode 2: CPD Brutality

Episode 3: Systemic Racism