Moultrie Observer

Local News

November 22, 2011

Murder appeal denied

MOULTRIE — The Georgia Supreme Court denied an appeal Monday to a Colquitt County man convicted of murder.

Craig Wayne Gandy was one of two men convicted in the slaying of Karen Moore and the wounding of her husband, James Moore, on Oct. 23, 2007. He was sentenced to life imprisonment on a felony murder charge, plus concurrent sentences of 20 years for burglary and 20 years for aggravated assault.

Gandy based his appeal on several assertions, but each was knocked down by the judges’ review.

According to court documents, the Moores hired Gandy and Jim Cloud to accompany them to the Boggy Bayou Mullet Festival in Niceville, Fla., where the Moores operated a concession stand. After three days in Nicevile, they returned to Moultrie Oct. 22, 2007. Gandy and Cloud were paid about $400 each and left.

That night, two masked men entered the Moores’ home to rob them. According to James Moore’s testimony, he recognized one of the men as Cloud by the way he held a baseball bat, and his wife called the other by Gandy’s name. At that point, the second man opened fire with a handgun. Karen Moore was struck five times and James Moore four or five times, court documents said. Karen Moore died.

The robbers took the Moores’ safe and fled. James Moore identified them as Gandy and Cloud to the Moultrie police officer who arrived.

Police responding to a suspicious vehicle call in Calhoun County caught Cloud and, after a longer chase, caught Gandy as well. Gandy had about $4,000 on his person when he was arrested.

Gandy contended:

• The trial court should have declared a mistrial when Cloud identified Joshua Peterson in court. Peterson was initially charged with Cloud and Gandy in the crime, but the charges against him were dropped. Gandy’s defense was trying to say Peterson was the gunman with Cloud and James Moore misidentified him. By letting the jurors see both men, the prosecutor reasoned, they could decide for themselves whether such a mistake seemed possible. Peterson exercised his Fifth Amendment right not to testify against himself, and Gandy said that deprived him of the right to confront a witness against him. The Supreme Court ruled that when Peterson refused to testify against himself, that meant he did not testify against Gandy either.

• The trial court should have declared a mistrial when Cloud announced he’d taken a polygraph test. The prosecutor asked Cloud whether he was sure Gandy was the shooter, and Gandy replied, “I’d swear on my life. I took a lie detector test actually to prove it.” The test cannot legally be admitted as evidence, so Gandy said the judge should have declared a mistrial but did not. The Supreme Court said the comment about the lie detector was not solicited by the prosecutor, and the judge immediately told the jury to disregard that statement, which the Supreme Court ruled was sufficient to prevent the testimony from having prejudicial impact.

• His attorney rendered ineffective counsel because he failed to move to suppress all evidence and testimony regarding the identification by the victims and another witness because of a suggestive identification procedure. James Moore identified Cloud, and Gandy claimed since Moore had last seen him with Cloud he assumed the other man was him. The witness, who gave him a ride when his car ran out of gas, later saw his picture identified as a suspect in the case on a news website. The Supreme Court ruled that whatever suggestion may have been involved in those identifications did not come from police; the jury as trier of fact would have to determine the credibility of witnesses.

• His attorney rendered ineffective counsel because he didn’t assert Georgia’s statutory and constitutional provisions requring mandatory minimum sentences regardless of age constitutes cruel and unusual punishment. Gandy, who was 20 years old at the time of the murder, was sentenced to life in prison; mandatory sentencing means he must spend 30 years in prison before being eligible for parole. He compared that to a death sentence and pointed to his young age at the time of the crime. The Supreme Court, however, noted that the legal basis for the appeal was a ruling that a defendant under the age of 18 could not be sentenced to life without parole for any crime other than homicide. Since Gandy was over 18 when the crime was committed, he did commit homicide, and his sentence allowed the possibility of parole, the Supreme Court said that ruling was not applicable.

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