Our firm has successfully represented many people charged with murder and other violent crimes in the State of Georgia. When a serious criminal case is in the news, the media often call Attorney Page Pate to help them understand the charges, the potential defenses, and all possible outcomes.
In this case, Tiffany Moss is accused of starving her 10 year old stepdaughter to death. She is representing herself in court and has not put up any witnesses or made any statements to the jury during her trial. She has laughed when the judge forced her to speak. Moss faces 3 possible sentences if she is convicted: death penalty, life without parole, life with parole. She turned down an option of a plea agreement where she would have received life without parole.
Seeking an expert opinion on the case, WXIA (11Alive) News in Atlanta interviewed Page about Moss not speaking up or cross-examining witnesses. Page said “it’s going to be very difficult for the jury to find her not guilty, I mean she is not putting up any defense at all, she’s not engaging with the witnesses, she made no opening statement – she is sitting silently during this entire portion of the trial.”
When asked if the jury might stray from the death penalty, Page said “they don’t know that she’s been offered a plea agreement. As far as they know she’s gone to trial because she said she didn’t do it or because the DA wouldn’t offer her a deal. She hasn’t engaged with the jury, they don’t know anything about her other than this crime, so I think it’s going to be very difficult for her to avoid the death penalty given the fact she’s not putting up any defense at all.”
When asked about a possible insanity defense, Page said “there is not going to be a viable insanity defense in this case because the judge is not going to tell the jury that they have that option.”
Page also said that he is shocked that the judge hasn’t stepped in and required Moss to have a lawyer in a death penalty case and that it will open up the possibility of an appeal.
Ms. Moss was convicted and sentenced to death. We expect an appeal and will watch the case closely.
Ron: Well, it’s the trial that has some jurors in tears.
Aisha: Yeah, and as we get closer to the end of this trial, it’s anybody’s guess what will happen. So, Tiffany Moss is the woman accused of starving her 10-year old stepdaughter Emani to death. She is defending herself but has yet to take the stand or call any witnesses at all.
Ron: And many of you are asking right now, “Where’s the biological mom in all of this?” Well, according to the DA’s office, Emani’s mom gave her up when she was just an infant and has not been involved in her life at all.
Aisha: 11alive is where Atlanta speaks. So, you have a lot of questions about this story and Hope Ford is here to answer them.
Hope: Yeah. So some people are wondering about, you know, her not speaking up for herself during this trial and not really giving any defense. So, I talked to Page Pate. He is a criminal defense attorney. He’s not associated with this case, but I asked him if she is condemning herself by not cross-examining witnesses and not speaking up during the trial.
Page: Well, it’s gonna be very difficult for the jury to find her not guilty. I mean, she’s not putting up any defense at all. She’s not engaging with the witnesses. She made no opening statement. She’s sitting silently during this entire portion of the trial.
Hope: Moss faces three possible sentences if convicted: death penalty, life without parole, like with parole. She already turned down an option of a plea agreement where she would have received life without parole. So, I asked Pate, “What’s the likelihood the jury would stray from the death penalty?”
Page: They don’t know that she’s been offered a plea agreement. As far as they know, she’s gone to trial because she said she didn’t do it or because the DA wouldn’t offer her a deal. She hasn’t engaged with the jury. They don’t know anything about her other than this crime. So I think it’s gonna be very difficult for her to avoid the death penalty given the fact she’s not putting up any defense at all.
Hope: Moss laughed at point when the judge forced her to speak, and one comment from Facebook reads she was simply trying to beef up an insanity appeal. So, I asked Pate if that was even possible.
Page: There is not going to be a viable insanity defense in this case because the judge is not gonna tell the jury that they have that option.
Aisha: All right. So let’s talk about the judge. Could the judge step in here?
Hope: So, Pate said that he’s actually shocked that the judge hasn’t stepped in and required that she has counsel in a death penalty case. And he says that by doing that, that opens up the possibility of an appeal.
Aisha: All right. Thank you so much, Hope. We will continue to follow this into next week. So closing arguments set to begin. She can say something, but it’s unlikely that she will.
Tom is a trial and appellate lawyer focusing on criminal defense and civil trials. Tom is the author of our firm’s “The Federal Docket” and a contributor to Mercer Law Review’s Annual Survey in the areas of federal law. Tom was named a “Top 40 Under 40” lawyer by The National Trial Lawyers, and is a recognized expert in federal sentencing law. He graduated with honors from the University of Georgia Law School where he served as a research assistant to the faculty in the areas of constitutional law and civil rights litigation. Read Tom’s reviews on AVVO. Follow Tom on Linkedin.