This week, during a retrial for capital murder defendant Preston Louis Moore, the Georgia man again had to endure the bloody images of his murdered brother.
“Looking at the pictures of him lying there in that field was not acceptable,” Larry Johnson said. “It’s a sad thing, but I think justice was done.”
After four days of testimony, a Calhoun County jury gave Larry Johnson that sense of justice by finding Moore guilty of capital murder and two counts of attempted murder for the 2003 shootings of Eugene Johnson, Xerxes Stanford and Tatiana Johnson.
The 37-year-old Anniston defendant had been serving life in prison without chance for parole after first being convicted of those charges in 2007.
But the Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals in 2009 reversed that decision, stating the original trial had violated Moore’s rights as a defendant.
His retrial happened this week in Circuit Judge Malcolm Street’s courtroom. Prosecutors had the floor most of the week, using witness testimony to establish that on Oct. 14, 2003, Moore entered Xerxes Stanford’s house at 196 Hinds St. and shot him, Eugene Johnson and Stanford’s then-15-year-old daughter.
Eugene Johnson died from a gunshot wound to the head that night, resulting in Moore’s capital murder charge. Moore was saddled with the attempted murder charges for shooting Xerxes Stanford, who died two years later from complications as a result of that gunshot injury, and Tatiana Johnson, who survived.
Tatiana Johnson — now a 24-year-old nurse who goes by her married name Tationna Williams — testified against Moore this week.
Her descriptions of the 2003 crimes — Moore pulling her away from her infant son, trying first to shoot her in the head and later successfully firing a bullet into her face — acted as key moments in the prosecution’s case.
During her closing statement Thursday, Chief Assistant District Attorney Lynn Hammond became visibly emotional as she spoke of Williams’ bravery.
“I look at her, and I call her — as I always have — my little girl,” Hammond said. “She lived for a reason. She lived to point out her accuser and to come in here and testify.”
Defense attorneys Randy Brooks and David Johnston spent much of the trial attempting to highlight the inconsistencies in the testimony of Williams and others put on the stand by prosecutors.
And in the trial’s final day, the defense briefly took the stage, interviewing two of its own witnesses.
One man, Anniston resident Delrekus Jernigan, was at Xerxes Stanford’s house for a drug transaction just moments before the shootings occurred, he said.
Other testimony from witnesses put on the stand by prosecutors also put Jernigan and his brother at the Hinds Street home at the time of the first gunshot.
But in his testimony Thursday, Jernigan said he never heard shots being fired when he was at Stanford’s house and — more importantly, according to the defense — never saw Preston Moore that night.
The second man to testify for the defense was Marvin Moore, Preston Moore’s brother.
Marvin Moore spent little time in the witness box, testifying only that when he first heard of the 2003 shootings, he did not know his brother was involved.
The defense also often spoke of the lack of physical evidence connecting Moore to the crimes — there were no guns, no bullets, no clothing, no car, no DNA matches that tied the defendant to the Hinds Street home that night.
“You cannot make all the stories of the people there be consistent,” Brooks said in closing. “When you have inconsistent stories, then you look to the physical evidence. When you have no physical evidence what you have is failure beyond a reasonable doubt.”
But the jury didn’t see it that way; it reached its guilty verdicts Thursday afternoon after less than an hour of deliberations.
McVeigh said he was pleased with the outcome. A sentencing hearing for Moore will happen Tuesday at 2 p.m., where he will be sentenced again to life in prison without parole.
Hammond said she’s happy for Williams and proud of her testimony this week.
“She was a 15-year-old little girl who should never have had to witness anything like that,” Hammond said. “And I admire her.”
Star staff writer Cameron Steele: 256-235-3562.