Free Unjolee Moore!
Judge Don Poole has denied Unjolee Moore post conviction relief for a second time. On May 8th, 2019, Unjolee Moore’s bid for a new trial was heard in Poole’s courtroom, focusing on expert witness testimonies of the cell phone evidence. We recognize that granting Unjolee Moore post- conviction relief would mean that Judge Poole would have to admit his own faults in properly examining the case. Nonetheless, we had hope that the expert witness testimonies 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 Mr. Moore’s case is perpetuating Mr. Moore’s immoral and inhumane incarceration.
This fight is far from over. The immoral and unethical conflicts of interest, between Judge Poole and Unjolee Moore, must be investigated. Judge Don Poole’s son, Chris Poole, prosecuted Mr. Moore in 2004. The relationship between Chris Poole, the US attorney who prosecuted Mr. Moore, and his father Judge Don Poole, should have been disclosed by Judge Don Poole as soon as he was assigned Unjolee Moore’s case. Three months after serving time for the charges prosecuted by Chris Poole, Unjolee Moore is then framed for murder by the CPD and brought before Judge Don Poole’s court. Judge Don Poole withheld the knowledge that his own son, Chris Poole, prosecuted Unjolee Moore, despite the prosecution referencing the case themselves.
Mr. Moore’s defense, Attorney Daniel Murphy, clearly illustrates how public defender Garth Best failed to provide Unjolee Moore with effective counsel in his initial court proceedings. Garth Best even admitted on the stand, during the first post-conviction hearing on August 13th, 2018, that he provided Mr.Moore with ineffective counsel. Judge Don Poole knew that Garth Best was an inexperienced public defender when he appointed him to Unjolee Moore’s defense, as Best had never been assigned to a homicide case before. Kelli L. Black was also appointed as a trial attorney in Mr. Moore’s case. In 2006, Judge Don Poole was Kelli Black’s lawyer. It is illegal for a judge to preside over a case that involves a former client. Over the nine years of litigation, Judge Don Poole has not once disclosed these conflicts of interest.
Judge Poole’s memorandum, denying Unjolee Moore of a new trial, was issued on May 21st, 2019. In the section titled, Summary of Trial Evidence, Poole outline’s the multitude of concerning elements in Mr. Moore’s case. He mentions CPD Lt. Edwin McPherson’s tampering with evidence, lying on the stand, and protecting Myra Collier, a suspect in the murder investigation and niece to Lt. McPherson. The summary also includes CPD Investigator Michael Wenger’s failure to provide Mr.Moore with a lawyer upon request, the incomplete interrogation recording, as well as his failure to collect a cell-phone as evidence after being instructed to “leave the phone alone” by McPherson. Poole mentions that there were discrepancies with the evidence, and that there is no DNA, forensic or scientific evidence linking Unjolee Moore to the murder or the alleged burglary in any way.
There are, however, two key pieces of evidence that Judge Poole has incorrectly referenced in his memorandum: Firstly, Unjolee Moore was brutally interrogated by Wenger, not “interviewed with dinner and breaks” as Poole states in his summary. While handcuffed to a chair for thirteen hours, being denied the right to speak to an attorney, and suffering punches to the face, Mr. Moore was coerced into giving a false confession that he was the driver in the alleged burglary. Stating that the “interview” lasted for four to six hours, and that Unjolee Moore was held “at the station for about twelve hours”, greatly depreciates the physical and psychological impact of being detained and mistreated for such a long time.
Attorney Daniel Murphy illustrated the hypocrisy of the court with an analogy that the State is attempting to ‘have their cake and eat it’. The data from the cell tower was previously believed to prove Mr.Moore’s guilt, and yet, now that the expert witnesses have proven the data to be inconclusive, the cell tower evidence should at least be considered worthy of granting Mr. Moore a new trial. The State prosecutor, Cameron Williams, is attempting to change the time of the alleged robbery and shooting, from 11:30pm when the witness says he heard a knock at the door, to 12:06am when the 911 call was placed. By convincing the court to observe the 911 call as the indicator of when the crime occurred, the State has complicated the cell tower evidence in an attempt to disprove Mr. Moore’s alibi.
There are countless cases, just like Mr. Moore’s, of the CPD tampering with evidence, intimidating and brutalizing our people into giving false confessions, as well as judicial and prosecutorial misconduct that results in our people being caged and dehumanized by the State. We are calling upon our movement family, across Tennessee and beyond, to support us as we fight alongside the Moore family in the coming months and years. The first action step we can take together is signing a petition for the Tennessee Department of Corrections to have Unjolee Moore transferred from Trousdale. Mr. Moore has already lost his life, and been revived, within the inhumane and dangerous conditions of the Trousdale facility, and the transfer requests that have been filed continue to be dismissed or ignored.
CCJ and the Moore family are in this fight for the long haul, and Attorney Daniel Murphy has already filed Unjolee Moore’s case with the Court of Appeals, to be heard by a higher court at a later date. We know that the judicial system is fueled by mass criminalization, white supremacy, and the continued enslavement and exploitation of our people. We know that Ed Johnson had to take his case all the way to the U.S Supreme Court before being exonerated, only to be murdered at the hands of the local law enforcement and white supremacists upon his return to Chattanooga in 1906. Judge Don Poole is protecting the Chattanooga Police Department, and his own reputation, by denying Unjolee Moore post-conviction relief. More than twenty community members showed up in solidarity with the Moore family on May 8th, and our numbers will keep growing as the fight continues.
The #FreeUnjolee Series
Learn about the case and how it’s connected to systemic injustice in Chattanooga