Moore found guilty of first-degree murder
By Poppy Hall
Special to the Tribune
A Marshall County jury deliberated for less than two hours before returning the verdict "guilty of first-degree murder" late Tuesday afternoon.
Sharod W. "C-Moe" Moore, 32, will have a sentencing hearing Friday, Nov. 14, but he cannot expect to see freedom again until he is an old man, if ever.
Tuesday was devoted to closing arguments.
Attorneys on both sides commented on the unusual circumstances which made this a difficult trial from a legal standpoint. Jason McCollum, as one of the key witnesses for the prosecution, was also, allegedly, an accomplice of the defendant in the murder of Ronald Shelton.
The defense added to the complications by calling McCollum's wife Heather as a witness. Amicable disagreement between the prosecution, the defense, and Heather McCollum's attorney over the cross examination ended with her entire testimony being struck from the record. An appeal against Heather McCollum's conviction for the murder of John Poteete is being prepared, and her answers in Moore's trial could damage this appeal. Jason McCollum was also allegedly an accomplice in this murder.
Having the burden of proof, the prosecution started the closing arguments. Assistant District Attorney Eddie Barnard reminded the jury of the evidence they heard which placed Moore at the scene of the crime.
All the witnesses testified to hearing three shots fired in rapid succession. Ballistics confirmed the bullet casings came from the same 9 mm handgun and could only have been fired by one person, as nobody testified to hearing a pause in the shots long enough for the gun to be passed from one person to another. Clifford Watkins, one of Shelton's neighbors, testified he heard three shots, went to his window, and saw two men -- one large and one small -- running from Shelton's apartment towards McCollum's house. It was too dark for Watkins to positively identify whom he saw running, but the relative sizes of the pair match Moore and McCollum. None of the witnesses heard a car door slam nor did they hear a car start, supporting McCollom's description of that night.
Police at the scene quickly established that robbery was not a motive for the murder and Moore's name came up as a person of interest. The detectives went to Moore's mother's house and established he was not there, thus corroborating McCollum's testimony that Moore was at his house the rest of the night following the shooting, confirmed by Victoria Cordova and McCollum's mother.
It was well established that both Moore and McCollom are members of the Vice Lords, with Moore having the higher rank. As in the army, the higher ranks give the orders which must be followed without question, which leads to the motive for this crime. Barnard proposed that McCollom had no motive to kill Shelton, his neighbor whom he liked and knew well. It was Moore who had the motive. McCollom testified to having had a phone conversation with Moore 10 or 15 minutes before Moore arrived at his house. In the phone conversation Moore told McCollum "Ron put his hands on my mama for the last time." Barnard said as a high ranking member of the Vice Lords Moore could no longer accept that his mother was being abused by Shelton or that this was becoming public knowledge, and so he had to take care of the problem.
Barnard ended his closing statement by saying both Moore and Shelton were "guilty as sin" for this crime and asked the jury, based on the law and the facts, to convict Moore of murder in the first.
Melissa Thomas for the defense gave a very compelling closing statement to the jury, based on the fact there was absolutely no physical or DNA evidence that linked her client to the crime scene. Thomas also pointed out none of the eye witnesses at the time of the crime positively identified Moore or McCollum as being the two men who were seen fleeing from Shelton's door. Nor was Moore's mother called to the witness stand to confirm if there had been a fight between her and the victim, which is the foundation of motive for the prosecution. Thomas also pointed out the most damning testimony against her client all came from intimate friends and family of Jason McCollum. Thomas ended her closing statement by saying, "I won't tell you to find my client not guilty. Use your common sense. I told you there was going to be a lot of lies. Look through the lies."