News 08.13.08

Virginia DNA tests point to real perpetrator and could clear a wrongful conviction

New DNA tests could posthumously exonerate Curtis Jasper Moore, who was convicted in 1978 of killing and raping an 88-year-old Virginia woman three years earlier. Moore, who suffered from schizophrenia, was committed to a state mental hospital for three years, until he was released when his conviction was overturned on appeal due to law enforcement officers’ failure to properly advise Moore of his rights before interrogating him. Prosecutors never retried him. Moore died of natural causes four years ago.

New DNA tests, conducted as part of a thorough review of hundreds of Virginia cases in which DNA testing could overturn wrongful convictions, have pointed to the involvement of another man, Thomas Pope, Jr., who has now been arrested and charged with rape and murder in connection with the case.

Moore was arrested shortly after the crime in 1975 after police received complaints about his “suspicious behavior.” Three police officers questioned Moore for some time, promising that he could go home if he told them what had happened at the murder scene. Police brought Moore to the victim’s home, and he allegedly made statements incriminating himself in the crime. A federal court reviewed the record and determined that Moore’s conviction, based on illegally-obtained admissions of guilt, must be vacated.

A Virginia spokesperson said the state is reinvestigating the crime to determine if Moore may have had a role.


Read more:

Richmond Times-Dispatch:

New DNA test leads to arrest in ’75 rape, slaying

(8/12/08)

Richmond Times-Dispatch:

Man not cleared despite DNA test

(8/13/08)

The ongoing review of hundreds of DNA cases in Virginia was ordered over two years ago by then-Gov. Mark Warner. The process has its roots in the 2002 exoneration of Innocence Project client

Marvin Anderson

. After officials declared that evidence in Anderson’s case had been destroyed, samples of evidence were found preserved in the notebook of a lab technician, along with samples from hundreds of other cases. After DNA testing on this evidence led to the exonerations of Anderson and two other men (

Julius Earl Ruffin

in 2003 and

Arthur Lee Whitfield

in 2004), the Innocence Project urged officials to conduct a broader review of cases. Gov. Warner ordered a review of a 10 percent sample of the 300-plus cases in which the technician had saved evidence. Two more men (

Phillip Thurman

and

Willie Davidson

) were proven innocent by this review and Gov. Warner ordered a systematic review of all convictions with biological evidence.

The review came under fire last year for not moving quickly enough because testing had not been completed on even 30 cases. The Washington Post now reports that lab workers have gone through 534,000 case files and sent thousands of relevant samples for testing. 

Last week, Virginia officials

announced

that they would notify defendants by certified mail if biological material was found in their file, rather than using pro bono attorneys to track down and contact the defendants.

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