Free Unjolee Moore!
Updates and Next Steps: Pack the Court, date tba
In the fight to #FreeUnjolee, Attorney Daniel Murphy has challenged Judge Don Poole’s denial of Mr.Moore’s relief in the court of appeals, and Unjolee Moore has been granted a second post-conviction hearing, date to be announced. On August 13th of 2018, Attorney 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.
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.
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.
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