State takes Death Row inmate to trial on a different Jacksonville murder, jury finds him not guilty

October 29, 2012

A Jacksonville jury did not think Duval County state attorneys proved Thomas James Moore was the person who killed and raped Donna Morris in 1990, finding Moore not guilty last week. What the jury didn't know, though, was that Moore has already been sentenced to death for a 1993 murder where robbed, killed and set fire to the house of senior citizen Moore was staying with at the time, according to a report in the Florida Times-Union. The judge ruled before the trial that the state could not bring up or discuss the fact Moore is in prison, including what he is there for, because she felt it could bias the jurors, the newspaper reported. And it likely would have. Jurors, and people in general, would surely be more likely to think a convicted murder could have committed another murder - especially in a case like this where there was very little evidence connecting Moore to the killing. Moore's criminal record could have easily tipped the scales to a guilty verdict.

Moore was arrested for charges in Jacksonville, Florida after being on Death Row for nearly 20 years because DNA evidence tied him to Morris, the newspaper reported. Moore's Duval County Criminal Defense Attorney argued the two could have had sex prior to the killing and that no one ever saw Moore and Morris together. Moore did not take the stand in the case, for one major reason: If he would have testified, the state would have been able to then question him about his prior criminal record - including the fact he is currently on Death Row. That would have completely changed the Jacksonville criminal case. But that's why our system is set up the way it is. Moore was being judged by a jury of his peers on that particular crime - the Jacksonville rape and murder of Donna Morris. That's it. His life and past choices are not on trial and Moore and his Jacksonville criminal defense attorney just have to prove there is reasonable doubt he did not crime this specific crime. And they did. This is precisely why, for example, if someone is on trial for a Jacksonville DUI and they have been convicted twice before on similar charges, the jury is not told this would be the defendant's third Duval County DUI. Could it make a jury more likely to think the person did it because they have been caught drinking and driving before? Of course. Does it mean the person is guilty the third time just because of the first two arrests? Absolutely not.

Strategy and discussions with a Jacksonville Criminal Defense Attorney are critical in a case like this. Our Jacksonville Criminal Trial Lawyer has tried dozens of cases and knows the ins and outs of the rules about what can trigger other actions, like a defendant testifying and their criminal record being fair game. If you or a loved one needs a criminal defense attorney in Jacksonville or the surrounding area, call The Mussallem Law Firm at (904) 365-5200 for a free consultation. Our Duval County Criminal Lawyer, Victoria "Tori" Mussallem, is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.