By Bill Britt
Alabama Political Reporter
The first day of Republican Rep. Barry Moore’s trial was sad; even pathetic.
There was Moore, with his hound dog good looks, dressed in a beige, summer-weight sport coat, looking worn and thrift-store chic. His wife, dutifully sitting behind her man, visibly worried.
Defense attorney, Bill Baxley, gave a rambling and incoherent opening statement that seemed designed to paint Barry as just a good, old boy who had fallen victim to a merciless plot, hatched by Josh Pipkin and Jonathan Tullos, who were working in collusion with the Attorney General’s Office to frame his client.
Baxley defense of Moore, was off the chain, and clearly absurd, Imagine a murder case where the defendant is caught on taping shooting the victim at point blank range, with a pair of eyewitnesses confirming what the tape clearly showed. Consider the bind the defense lawyer is in if the prosecutors refuse to offer any deal and insisted on the death penalty. The lawyer has no choice but to try the case, as there is nothing to lose. If the defendant pleads guilty, he gets the death penalty.
In such a case, where the facts and the law are squarely against the defendant and the lawyer must try the case anyway, the only hope the lawyer has is to mislead and confuse the jury with wild conspiracy theories and subtle hints of cloak and dagger tactics.
The classic defenses are worthless. “You have the wrong guy!” No they don’t. “I didn’t shoot anyone!” Yes you did. “He didn’t die!” Tell that to his grieving widow and children. “Sure I may have told a few other people I planned to kill the guy, but they tape recorded the conversations and talked about it amongst themselves before I did it., so surely it isn’t a crime.” Wait. What?
As absurd as it is, that’s where Moore finds himself. On the wrong side of the facts. On the wrong side of the law. Instead, he’s left with Baxley’s attempts to mislead and confuse the jurors, hoping somehow that they disregard the facts, the tapes, the eyewitnesses, the law, and their combined centuries of common sense.
Moore is charged with two counts of perjury and two counts of making false statements during the Lee County Grand Jury’s investigation into Speaker of the House Mike Hubbard.
The charges came from answers given regarding conversations between Moore and then-candidate for HD91, Josh Pipkin. The conversations were in relation to Hubbard’s threats to withhold 100 jobs from Enterprise, if Pipkin did not exit the race. In these statements, Moore alleged that Hubbard said he (Hubbard) would “rain holy hell” down on Pipkin if he did not withdraw.
Tullos is the Executive Director of the Wiregrass Economic Development Corp. and was the first witness called by the prosecution. He testified to the facts that Moore had made threats on behalf of Hubbard, in order to stop Pipkin from mounting a challenge against Moore in the Republican primary.
The prosecution, led by W. Van Davis, laid out a clear bullet-point presentation of exactly what Moore had done and the charges against him. It’s very simple: did Moore lie to the Grand Jury and did he make false statements to the State’s prosecutors?
However, Baxley argued before the jury that Moore supported the economic development project that Hubbard threatened to derail, he did not threaten the project and therefore had done nothing wrong. This we have to assume is the case Baxley wished he had been given.
Tullos, a West Point grad, was rudely cross-examined by Baxley, in a style more Tomás de Torquemada, than Matlock, which Tullos took in stride. At one point Baxley asked Tullos if he had sent a text message from his computer to Pipkin on June 20, 1913, at which point, the witness and the jury seemed to cross their eyes in disbelief. On an other occasion, Baxley was in 1920, so as the trial proceeded he did get a little closer to the current century.
Of course, Hubbard’s criminal defense attorney J. Mark White was on hand, along with his law partner, Augusta Dowd. Both scribbled furiously on legal pads, perhaps hoping to find away to dig Baxley out of the hole he dug himself into all afternoon.
Davis was clam and relaxed as he queried Tullos, who seemed well prepared to tell his side of the incident surrounding Moore and the Hubbard threats.
Baxley asked Tullos why he called Moore only twice, while he had phoned Pipkin some 70 times—as if this was proof of a sister plot. Tullos responded by saying, “we were trying to decide if we should call law enforcement and tell them that we believed Moore and Hubbard were engaged in an extortion scheme.”
So much for an attorney knowing the answer to the question they are going it’s ask.
At this point, it would be difficult to say how the trial was going, other than to really hope that Mrs. Moore can get some of her money back from Baxley if her husband goes to jail.