Court drops child killer’s life sentence
A Clifton man may walk out of prison in 20 years after the Colorado Court of Appeals on Thursday reversed a 2008 first-degree murder conviction in the death of the man’s toddler stepson.
Brandon Moore, now 27, who had been serving life in prison without the possibility of parole, will be eligible to go before the state’s parole board starting as early as 2032, according to Katherine Sanguinetti, spokeswoman for the Colorado Department of Corrections.
District Attorney Pete Hautzinger said the surviving family of 23-month-old Logan Acord on Thursday made clear to him their wishes for Moore’s case.
“If nothing changes from here on out, this family would strongly want a trial on the first-degree murder charge,” Hautzinger said, signaling he’d do just that. Carolyn Tyler, spokeswoman for Colorado Attorney General John Suthers, said attorneys had no decision on a possible appeal to the Colorado Supreme Court.
” ... the justice system failed my son Logan and i will not be quiet any more,” Stacey Acord, Logan’s mother, posted to Facebook on Thursday night. “i don’t have the rights to go back in time and not leave my kids with him! so why do killers get that privilege????”
The Court of Appeals said in a non-published opinion that Moore deserves a new trial on the first-degree murder charge because Mesa County District Judge Thomas Deister gave an unconstitutional jury instruction before the jury returned guilty verdicts in August 2008.
The judge’s error involved an instruction on what it means to “knowingly” take an action that leads to someone’s death, the Court of Appeals said.
Prosecutors had to prove Moore “knowingly” caused Logan’s death, an element of first-degree murder.
Deister’s instruction, however, told jurors they were “required” to presume Moore was aware of the probable consequences of his acts, the Court of Appeals ruling said.
” ... We conclude that there is a reasonable probability that the jury interpreted the instruction as constituting a mandatory burden-shifting ... which deprived Moore of his right to due process,” the Court of Appeals wrote.
The Court of Appeals said Deister’s error was obvious “because it was directly contrary to long-established United States Supreme Court and Colorado Supreme Court precedent,” according to the opinion.
“We further conclude that on the facts presented here, the error was substantial and undermined the reliability of the verdict.”
The Court of Appeals ruled Moore’s conviction for child abuse resulting in death still stands. He’s serving a 48-year prison sentence on that count.
Thursday’s ruling was written by Appeals Court Judge Richard Gabriel, while Judges Gilbert Roman and Steve Bernard also were on the panel that reviewed Moore’s case.
Logan died two days shy of his second birthday in July 2007 after suffering repeated blows to the head. Aside from brain trauma, doctors found bite marks and bruises across the boy’s body.
Doctors concluded the head injuries would have rendered Logan unconscious almost immediately and were inconsistent with a fall in the bathtub.
Moore’s defense argued at trial that Moore panicked when the toddler slipped in the bathtub, before he hit and bit the boy in an apparent effort to wake the toddler.
Logan’s family, several of whom met privately with Hautzinger, were reeling Thursday. Clifton resident Ruth Acord, Logan’s great-grandmother, said they’ve visited Logan’s grave to release balloons for the past five years on his birthday.
“I thought when justice was done, it was done,” she said. “They keep telling me God doesn’t give you more than you can handle. Sometimes I don’t know.”