Monday, November 3, 2014

Did decision to take the stand in his own defense nail down not-guilty verdicts in Barry Moore case?

Barry Moore
Conventional wisdom in the legal world holds that a criminal defendant should almost never take the stand. The logic seems to be that by testifying in his own defense, the defendant allows prosecutors to pose potentially damaging questions that otherwise would go unasked.

State Rep Barry Moore (R-Enterprise) defied that logic and was found not guilty in the first trial arising from a Lee County grand jury investigation related to the activities at the Alabama State House.

Based on press reports, Moore was not a particularly effective witness. In fact, one account suggests he more or less confessed to at least one instance of perjury. But we suspect his decision to stand up and speak on his own behalf played a role in the non-guilty verdicts, on two counts of perjury and two counts of providing false statements.

A source who was present for the trial says the Moore defense team's  strategy apparently consisted of creating as much confusion as possible, perhaps to draw attention from taped phone conversations that seemed to show Moore was less than truthful before the grand jury about threats issued by House Speaker Mike Hubbard.

From our source:

My mother used to always tell me that I argue just to argue, and that is exactly what happened in this case. Moore’s legal team had no legal standing to argue on, so they resorted to arguing irrelevant facts that came across to me as absurd and laughable. The defense created such a foggy haze of ludicrous assertions that at times I forgot what Barry Moore was on trial for. This tactic clearly worked.

You can never overlook the element of race in an Alabama proceeding, so I asked our source about the racial makeup of the jury. He said it was seven whites and five blacks--two black males, five white males, two white females, three black females. Both alternates were white females.

Based on that, it doesn't seem race played much of a factor. (It would be interesting to know the identify of the foreman; I'm convinced that person almost always carried huge weight in a jury trial.)

A scatter-shot defense that left observers scratching their heads apparently carried the day. And I suspect Barry Moore helped himself by taking the stand. My guess is that, to many jurors, nothing screams "Guilty" like a defendant who won't speak for himself. That might not hold true if the defendant is a street thug with a long list of prior arrests and convictions. But in a white-collar case, where the defendant is likely to be fairly well spoken and the law often is murky, I think it makes sense for the defendant to put himself out there for questioning.

I see no reason for the Moore verdict to have any impact on future proceedings that grow from the Lee County investigation. But the case did provide us with a memorable quote. In one tape recording, political opponent Josh Pipken is heard telling Moore "most business leaders think you're a snake and stupid as well."

How's that for laying the cards on the table?

We don't know if Moore is stupid or not. But he was wise enough to take the stand in his own defense. And we suspect he owes his freedom, at least in part, to that decision.


James Greek said...

Ha! He is the one who argued just to argue! You are the one who did Crook!

Matt Osborne said...

This is called the Chewbacca defense. It's from an episode of South Park in which Johnny Cochran is portrayed winning unwinnable cases by distracting the jury with a discussion of why the Star Wars character is illogical.

Robby Scott Hill said...

Law Professor & Former Staff Attorney to Chief Justice Roy Moore, Henry Fowler, used to drill that premise into our heads that you never, ever let your client take the stand in his own defense. Generally, this is true in open and shut cases like murder, especially when the DA has the smoking gun evidence. However, no law professor or practicing attorney would ever really give me more than one or two simple sound bites on why your client should never take the stand. They were basically: 1)your client is fucking stupid for wanting to do it & 2) you are fucking stupid if you let your client do it. Through life experience, I've discovered that there really are a limited number of circumstances where the law is incredibly murky & the jury really won't be sure whether you did the crime or not unless you add your two cents and it will take an impassioned plea from you to keep your ass out of prison and everyone in prison out of your ass. So, fuck it! That's when you need to take a chance like the drunk dude at the bar who accidentally goes home with the good looking chick who just so happens to have a dick. Yes, sometimes rolling the dice & taking the stand DOES WORK in your favor & this quid pro quo, public corruption shit is exactly the kind of case where you as the defendant might want to take the stand to keep everyone in prison out of your ass. I think Don Siegelman would be a free man today if he had took the stand.

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