In Virginia, after Marvin Anderson was exonerated in 2002 by DNA evidence in his case that was uncovered
in the files of retired lab analyst Mary Jane Burton, who saved such evidence in all of her files, Gov. Mark Warner then ordered
that 10% of her over 300 cases -- a random sample -- be tested for possible
other wrongful convictions. These tests exonerated two more men -- Phillip Leon Thurman and Willie Davidson. These shocking results -- a more than 6% error rate -- led Warner to order DNA testing of evidence found in all forensic case files that led to convictions from 1973 through 1988.
It's taken quite a long time for testing to begin in these cases but results are starting to come in and the exonerations are likely to continue to mount. Just this week test results appear to have cleared Curtis Jasper Moore of the murder and rape of an 88 year old Emporia woman named Eva King Jones. Thomas Pope Jr. (pictured below) was charged with the murder and rape after DNA testing linked him to the crime. Pope's profile was in a state database after he had been convicted of the abduction and rape of a 9 year old girl.
Thomas Pope Jr.
But what about Curtis Jaspar Moore? Moore was arrested and convicted in the Virginia state courts based on a confession which two federal courts later tossed because it was the product of an unlawful arrest without probable cause and an un-Mirandized interrogation. By reading the federal court opinions (both of which are published), Moore appears to have been the victim of a dragnet operation from desperate local police officers who hauled in dozens of local black men in the wake of the murder (the victim stayed alive long enough to tell police that her assailant was black). Once at the police station, the severely mentally ill Moore, was grilled relentlessly by multiple detectives in an interrogation which was partially recorded on tape. He repeatedly denied knowing anything about the crime but his denials were ignored. The tapes of the interrogation are filled with highly coercive tactics, including repeated promises to Moore that he could go home once he confessed. Detectives also suggested details of the crime to Moore and twice took him to the crime scene to help him "remember" these details. Moore, who told the officers he had been released from a mental hospital, hummed and sang the theme song from the television show "Have gun will travel" throughout the interrogation.
Tragically, Moore spent six years in a state mental hospital in the custody of the Department of Corrections before the federal courts tossed his conviction and prosecutors decided not to retry him. Moore will never get to savor the taste of total vindication (which I hope will come shortly) -- he died four years ago.
For continuing updates about this story, check out articles by Frank Green in the Richmond Times Dispatch.