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Walter Leroy Moody, inmate on Alabama's death row for pipe b
Mon Apr 16, 2018 03:58

Walter Leroy Moody, inmate on Alabama's death row for pipe bomb death of judge, loses appeal
Updated Mar 18, 2017; Posted Mar 18, 2017

Walter Leroy Moody Jr.

By Kent Faulk
Walter Leroy Moody Jr., the man on Alabama's death row for the 1989 pipe bombing death of federal appeals judge Robert S. Vance, had asked to represent himself at his 1996 capital murder trial.

But once the jury selection began, Moody asked for a 12- to 18-month continuance so he could hire two lawyers. The judge refused to grant a continuance.

Last week the U.S. 11th Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed lower court rulings that stated Moody had "knowingly and voluntarily waived his right to counsel" and the denial of a continuance at his trial was not contrary to federal law as determined by the U.S. Supreme Court.

Moody, now 81, is the oldest inmate on Alabama Death Row.

In his direct appeal, Moody did not challenge the trial court's decision to permit him to represent himself at trial pursuant to a previous SCOTUS decision, the 11th Circuit stated in its opinion on Thursday.

"He did, however, argue that the trial court erred in refusing to grant him, after voir dire examination of the jurors had begun, a 12- to 18-month continuance so that he could obtain the services of two new attorneys who had expressed an interest in representing him."

According to the opinion the trial judge held two lengthy discussions with Moody--one on August 2, 1994, and another on May 7, 1996-- "during which it explicitly warned [Mr.] Moody of the perils of going forward without counsel," and made multiple inquiries over the course of the proceedings to determine whether Mr. Moody was "standing by his request to proceed pro se."

The trial judge noted that Moody had been a party in 63 other legal proceedings, both civil and criminal, and had represented himself for all or part of about 35 of those proceedings. The judge stated Moody was "not a novice."

U.S. Supreme Court denies appeal by Alabama Death Row inmate convicted in 1989 bombing death of judge

The Supreme Court, without commenting, denied the request of Walter Leroy Moody to review his petition.

While concurring with the majority opinion, 11th Circuit Judge Beverly B. Martin wrote a separate opinion. She stated she was writing because the case "demonstrates the troubling consequences" of the U.S. Supreme Court's 1975 ruling in Faretta v. California.

In the Faretta case the SCOTUS ruled that a criminal defendant could proceed without counsel "when he voluntarily and intelligently elects to do so."

Martin noted that at the time of the Faretta ruling, Chief Justice Warren Burger predicted the right to self-representation would "only add to the problems of an already malfunctioning criminal justice system."

"Representing himself at his capital trial, Mr. Moody made no objection to any evidence," Martin wrote. "He made no opening or closing argument to the jury. He failed to put on any defense. He essentially refused to participate in the trial."

"During the part of the trial in which the jury was called upon to decide whether he should be put to death, Mr. Moody gave them no evidence in mitigation," Martin stated. "After this paltry presentation, it is of little surprise that the jury found Mr. Moody guilty and then, by a vote of 11-1, recommended that he be sentenced to death."

"This kind of one-sided proceeding is concerning not only because it fails to effectively protect the constitutional rights of capital defendants, but also because it fails to protect the public's interest in fair and accurate criminal proceedings," Martin stated.

As a federal court of appeals the judges are bound by the SCOTUS decision in Faretta, but Martin wrote that she hopes SCOTUS will reconsider the contours of the rule in the context of capital cases.

"We know that high quality legal representation is essential in capital trials. Capital trials are more complex. They have their own unique set of rules," Martin wrote.

Judge Vance was killed Dec. 16, 1989, and his wife, Helen, was seriously injured after the judge opened a package that had been sent to his home, detonating the pipe bomb. A similar pipe bomb killed a lawyer in Atlanta two days later.

Moody was linked to the crimes through a similar bomb nearly two decades earlier that had injured his wife when it exploded. His prosecution in that case led to his resentment of the courts leading up to the 1989 bombings.

In 1991, a federal jury convicted Moody of 71 charges related to the pipe-bomb murders of Vance and civil rights attorney Robert E. Robinson.

Months later, an Alabama grand jury indicted Moody on two counts of capital murder and one count of assault in the first degree (for injuries suffered by Judge Vance's wife). Moody represented himself at his state trial, which took place in October of 1996.

The jury found him guilty and recommended a sentence of death for the murders. The trial judge followed the jury's recommendation and sentenced Moody to death.

Walter Leroy Moody Jr., 83, the oldest inmate on Alabama Death Row, is waiting to see if a court will block his execution by lethal injection Thursday for a bombing nearly three decades ago that killed a federal appeals court judge.

Moody maintains he didn't do it.

And in the past few months since his April 19 execution date was set he and his attorneys have filed a flurry of appeals in federal and state courts. Last week both he - in a hand-written motion - and his attorneys filed requests for stay of execution.

And now he and his attorneys are awaiting a ruling by the U.S. 11th Circuit Court of Appeals, which listened to arguments in the case last Thursday.

U.S. 11th Circuit of Appeals Judge Robert Vance Sr. was killed Dec. 16, 1989 in a blast from a pipe bomb hidden in a package sent to the judge's Mountain Brook, Ala., home. The judge's wife, Helen, was seriously injured in the blast.

In 1991, a federal jury convicted Moody of 71 charges related to the pipe-bomb murders of Vance and Georgia civil rights attorney Robert E. Robinson, who also was killed in a pipe-bomb blast two days after the judge. That federal trial was conducted in Minnesota.

Moody was placed on death row after a jury convicted him of capital murder at a trial in Alabama five years later. The jury recommended 11-1 that the death penalty be imposed and the judge agreed.

Alabama asked that an execution date be set for Moody on Jan. 9, the day after the U.S. Supreme Court denied his request to consider an appeal.

Moody recently argued to a federal appeals court that the federal government which convicted him first on non-death penalty charges should have him in custody instead.

Both the Alabama Attorney General and U.S. Justice Department have said that the federal government had the right, under an agreement, to allow the state to take custody of Moody and have him serve his state sentence first.

"Moody cannot challenge any determination by the United States or Alabama as to the order in which he will face his federal and state sentences.

The comity rules that govern priority of jurisdiction between the United States and Alabama do not confer on Moody any legally enforceable right that he may assert in a federal habeas proceeding," according to a federal appeals court brief filed April 10 by the U.S. Justice Department.

Moody lost his appeal on another issue in January before the U.S. Supreme Court. He had appealed an 11th Circuit decision in March 2017.

That appeal was about his decision to represent himself at his 1996 capital murder trial in Alabama. After convicting him, the jury voted 11-1 to recommend a death sentence. Courts have found that the trial judge did not err in allowing Moody to represent himself.

Much of prosecutors' evidence centered on the similarities between pipe bombs Moody had previously been convicted of using.

According to a summary of the bombings and investigations in one federal court document, prosecutors claimed that in May 1972, a bomb exploded in Moody's home in Macon, Ga. "The bomb, contained in a package addressed to a car dealer who had repossessed Moody's car, exploded when opened by Moody's wife.

Moody was convicted in federal court in Macon for possessing the bomb, although he was acquitted of manufacturing it, and he served three years in federal prison."

"Moody eventually became obsessed with overturning his 1972 conviction. He devised an elaborate story to shift the blame to a mythical "Gene Wallace," who Moody had claimed at trial had been attempting to assist him in regaining possession of his car and was responsible for the bomb," according to the court document.

"Moody recruited a witness to substantiate his account, a destitute, young handicapped woman, Julie Linn-West, and he paid her in small monthly installments as she learned her fabricated story. Moody petitioned for a Writ of Error Coram Nobis, seeking to overturn his 1972 conviction."

A lower federal court denied his petition and then a panel of three 11th Circuit judges (Vance was not one of them) affirmed the denial in June 1989. The entire court then denied it in August 1989.

Soon after the 11th Circuit denied Moody's appeal, according to federal prosecutors, "Moody began to prepare to do battle with the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals."

Besides the bombs that killed Vance and Robinson, two other bombs were intercepted - one to the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals building in Atlanta and the Jacksonville, Fla. Office of the NAACP.

Moody Pro Se Motion Stay by KentFaulk on Scribd

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