CCJ Supports Unjolee Moore’s Bid for New Trial

The family of Bernard Hughes and Timothy Westfield deserve justice. The prosecution and conviction of Unjolee Moore, resulting in a life sentence, was and is not justice. Convicted on four charges- Felony Murder, Attempted Especially Aggravated Robbery, Attempted Second Degree Murder, and Employing a Firearm During a Dangerous Felony- Moore was prosecuted and convicted without any DNA or other scientific and forensic evidence; without adequate legal defense; with conflicting eyewitness testimony, none of which placed him at the scene of the crime; and with police misconduct during the investigation.

Having already served nearly five years of a sentence where he will not be eligible for parole until 2069, Concerned Citizens for Justice (CCJ) supports his bid for a new trial. Moore appeared before Judge Poole in Hamilton County, TN Criminal Court on Thursday April 23, 2015 where his motion for a new trial was denied. The case now goes to the Tennessee Criminal Court of Appeals where his attorney will file an appeal.

On the night of June 29, 2010, an alleged attempted robbery took place at the former British Woods Apartment complex in Chattanooga that left Bernard Hughes dead and Timothy Westfield shot twice. Despite convictions in the case, we still say alleged because a handwritten letter from one of the accused, John Simpson, who has yet to stand trial, both admits guilt and says that the fateful night had nothing to do with a robbery. This is important, because the whole premise for prosecuting and convicting Unjolee Moore is that he was the mastermind and getaway driver for the alleged robbery.

In addition to the the questionable premise, there are several other important factors that should have factored into reasonable doubt of Moore’s involvement and guilt, detailed below. Not the least of which is the fact–confirmed through a sustained Internal Affairs investigation of misconduct and untruthfulness–that Chattanooga Police Lieutenant McPherson interfered in the case by ordering a cell phone belonging to the other person convicted in the case not be collected as evidence and then lied about having given the order. Lt. McPherson’s niece had been present the night of the incident and called Lt. McPherson before, during, and after the incident.

  • Several witness testimonies stating they did not see Mr. Moore at the scene of the crime.
  • No DNA or other scientific or forensic evidence linking Mr. Moore to the crime,   supported by Dr. Laura Boos’s TBI Report
  • Inconsistent eyewitness statements of key witness.
  • According to the police report there was no forced entry or items taken from either of the victims nor the apartment.
  • At the time of this crime, Mr. Moore was working two jobs, had reliable check stubs to prove such, and no outstanding bills or debt that would warrant the need for robbery.
  • Alibi and witness to testify to the alibi.
  • Possible phone records that will reflect that a call that came through Mr. Moore’s phone at the time of the crime would show that Mr. Moore’s phone was pinging from a different phone tower outside of the area where the incident occurred.
  • Handwritten confession letter from one of the perpetrators stating the events that took place the night of June 28, 2010.  A handwriting expert confirmed the letter was indeed written by the particular perpetrator. Handwriting expert attended trial to testify, but was never called to the stand.
  • Internal Affairs documented investigation sustaining that Police Misconduct and untruthfulness was found concerning an officer tampering with the investigation and evidence.
  • An alleged recorded confession was the only substantial evidence presented at trial and was not provided to Moore’s defense attorney until a few days before the trial. Mr. Moore maintains that the recording is not his voice and desires a voice analysis. Additionally, the equipment failed and batteries ran out during the recording of the alleged confession and the recording is incomplete.

To view more detailed analysis of problems with the prosecution and conviction of Unjolee Moore, please see the brief compiled by community advocate and CCJ member, Courtney Parham, here.

The prosecution and conviction of Unjolee Moore is illustrative of the criminal INjustice system that neither provides justice to those harmed, nor justice to those accused of harm. The case points to the need for Civilian Oversight of the Police that includes investigative & disciplinary power. How can an officer, with multiple past Internal Affairs complaints, order potential evidence not be collected in a murder case his niece was involved in and still be employed?

The case demonstrates that quality of representation based on your ability to pay for adequate legal defense–which disproportionately impacts Black people–is directly connected to your outcomes in court. Moore’s prosecution and conviction demonstrates the power of the Prosecutor’s Office to craft a narrative that ensures a conviction rather than justice for those harmed.

To the system, respect and dignity for Black lives-whether those harmed or those accused of harm–are less important than getting a conviction.