published Friday, May 24th, 2013

Mistrial declared in child molestation case

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The jurors were deadlocked Thursday.

There was too much doubt with Alvin Moses' case.

Police testified that the 67-year-old LaFayette, Ga., man had confessed to molesting a 15-year-old girl four years ago when he was arrested. But when the evidence was presented, witnesses contradicted police.

Then the case rested on three women's testimony: a mother and her two daughters, who all said they were victims of Moses at one time in their life. Moses was being tried only for the allegations involving the oldest daughter, now 18, because the state didn't have enough evidence for a case involving her sister and the statue of limitations had run out on the allegations by their mother.

But the girls couldn't remember many of the details or when it happened. In a few cases their answers were different on the stand from interviews with Walker County sheriff's detectives four years ago.

After Superior Court Judge Ralph Van Pelt declared a mistrial Thursday, several jurors concluded that either Moses didn't do it and the evidence was fabricated or the police didn't find the evidence.

"It was kind of like a made-up case," said John Goins. "Maybe at the time they had more evidence and more witnesses were available."

Other jurors were convinced of Moses' guilt.

"I think he was very guilty on all counts," said Roy Copland. "The overall evidence was enough for me. I tried to convince everyone."

Everyone on the jury agreed the state didn't present enough evidence on count five for child molestation. On that count Moses was accused of peering into the shower at the teenage girl, but she had changed her story on the stand. Even Lookout Mountain Assistant District Attorney Jennifer Hartline told the jury to acquit him on that count.

"That's actually pretty rare for a prosecutor to do," she told the jury.

On the four other counts against Moses, juror Kim Perry said, most on the panel wanted to acquit him on count one, aggravated sexual battery, but 10 were leaning toward finding him guilty on three counts of child molestation. Some jurors were haunted by the testimony that he told his supervisor "he would have had sex with one of them [the daughters]."

The girls' mother blamed the time lapse for the jurors' confusion.

"It's been [four] years," she said from her front porch. "They've tried to forget it and put it in the past."

Neither she nor her two daughters stayed at the trial to hear the verdict.

Former Walker County sheriff's detective Caroline Cobb defended her case and the time it took to go to trial.

"We have cases that take longer than that to try," she said.

But a few jurors said they also had problems with Cobb's testimony.

At trial her notes showed that when she interviewed the girls' mother, the mother admitted Moses also had molested her for years. But when the mother took the stand, she insisted Moses had molested her only one time in sixth or eighth grade.

Cobb said she hadn't recorded the interview with the mother.

As the jurors took their places in the courtroom Thursday, Moses stood still, looking at his hands.

His daughter, Tonya, and his wife stood behind him, his wife holding their 3-year-old granddaughter. Moses cried as the judge declared a mistrial.

He shook his head as he left when asked to talk: "There's been too much bad things that have been said."

Hartline said she either will offer Moses a plea deal or the case will be given to a new jury at trial.

Contact staff writer Joy Lukachick at jlukachick@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6659.

about Joy Lukachick Smith...

Joy Lukachick is the city government reporter for the Chattanooga Times Free Press Since 2009, she's covered breaking news, high-profile trials, stories of lost lives and of regained hope and done investigative work. Raised near the Bayou, Joy’s hometown is along the outskirts of Baton Rouge, La. She has a bachelor’s degree in mass communication from Louisiana State University. While at LSU, Joy was a staff writer for the Daily Reveille. When Joy isn't chasing ...

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