In July of 2009, Mr. Moses was arrested by West Sacramento Police after an individual named Hakim helped the daughter escape Mr. Moses and called the cops. They had been staying in a West Sacramento hotel at the time of the arrest.
The victim also claimed that when she turned 14, her father forced her to orally copulate her.
According to members of the jury, they were uncertain of the exact time frame for the beginning point of the assaults, thus they acquitted Mr. Moses on five counts marking the beginning charge for each assault. They believed that the assaults began when the victim turned 12, but were not certain they began right at 12 and so they dismissed the first two charges there.
They were convinced the forced oral copulation began sometime around 14, but were not sure when, so they threw out the first set of charges, to err on the side of caution. One juror was not convinced it began at 14 at all, and so they hung on the second pair of copulation charges.
On Wednesday, Judge Stephen Mock found the enhancement of prior serious felonies to be true. In 1986, Mr. Moses pled no contest to first degree burglary. Three years later, he pled no contest to 10 counts of first degree burglary, and ended up in prison until 1996. The assaults would begin around 2000 when his daughter turned 12.
He will be sentenced on April 22, and he undoubtedly faces several lifetimes in prison for his crimes.
The DA presented a very strong case. The case centered around four critical pieces of evidence. First, that Mr. Moses’ sister had claimed that Mr. Moses molested her as a child, and had sex with his other sister. Second, the victim claimed that the abuse was almost daily, and she was too afraid to tell. Her mother was mentally ill and out of the picture.
Third, after calling the police, investigators retrieved a pair of shorts that Mr. Moses had allegedly worn followed their final incident of sex, and it was consistent with both his DNA and her DNA.
Finally, the defendant, under hours of interrogation, admitted to having sex on occasions with his daughter.
From the start, the defense attorney, Deputy Public Defender Emily Fisher, attempted to the best of her ability to punch holes in the case.
The victim had lived with her grandmother (Mr. Moses’ mother) until she was ten. The defense argued that Mr. Moses’ second wife was a strong stabilizing factor in his life. She also served as a mother figure. However, the couple divorced when the victim was 12, which was proffered as a precipitating event.
While the defense argued that the second wife served as a mother figure beyond their married relationship, on the stand she admitted that over time that relationship cooled and became more distant.
Mr. Moses had a series of relationships, another marriage, and was constantly moving around with a different cast of characters. The living arrangements made it difficult to sustain the view that he had sex with his daughter almost every day.
In addition, the defense would point out that at several points in time, including the final days when they stayed in the motel together, the victim had alternatives to living with Mr. Moses and she herself chose to remain there.
The defense also pointed to the lack of detailed recollection of past sexual assaults by the victim, and even highly contradictory testimony about the series of events in the final days at the motel.
Police investigative techniques were also castigated. As we mentioned in a previous article on this case, they interrogated Mr. Moses without an attorney for over nine hours before he finally confessed.
The confession also took place after he was told he was not under arrest, that he was free to leave, and then when he tried to leave they prevented him from doing so.
The DNA that they had was difficult to evaluate. The witness from the Department of Justice acknowledged that because the victim was the daughter of the perpetrator, his DNA would mask hers. 97% of the DNA came from him.
The defense offered up the possibility of transference of DNA, either in the wash or elsewhere. While the DOJ witness could not rule that out, that scenario was deemed unlikely.
The defense pointed out that following sex, Mr. Moses was said to ejaculate into his hand, shower, and dry with a towel prior to putting on his shorts. The investigators neglected to DNA-test the bedding or the towel – only the shorts were tested.
Moreover, when the victim had her vagina tested, they found semen, but not from Mr. Moses. Complicating that process is the fact that she douched following the sex.
Deputy Public Defender Fisher made a strong showing in her closing, illustrating the contradictions in the victim’s behavior to her testimony, contradictions in the details of her testimony, and in attempting to discount Mr. Moses’ confession as tainted.
However, Deputy DA Serafin in her closing made the point that, given the frequency of the sexual assaults, it would not be surprising that the victim would lack recollections of all but the most recent assaults and perhaps her first assault. She also pointed out the strength of her evidence.
While this was certainly not a black and white case, the evidence in this case was strong when viewed in totality. There are simply too many factors that would all have to be discounted to make the story untrue.
In our discussion with members of the jury and our own analysis of the case, we are hard-pressed to find a clear motive for the victim to make this up. She did not want to testify, she did not want her father to get in trouble. She had plenty of opportunities to leave. There was no reason to invent the story.
For the juror I spoke with at length, the key evidence was the confession, flawed as the technique by West Sacramento PD was. Frankly, they are darn lucky that the defendant in this case was likely guilty, because everything about the interrogation was coercive and improper.
But Mr. Moses did not, as he suggested on the stand, merely give up and say I did it. Instead he said, “She just danced around and teased me in her nighties all night long.” And he also talked about how she instigated the sex at times.
To put it mildly, there would be no one who would make that kind of statement unless he thought of his daughter in sexual terms.
Under the conditions to which Mr. Moses was exposed, he probably would have broken down whether he had done it or not. Fortunately for West Sacramento PD, he seems to have done it.
For me, the bigger issue was the DNA, because the defense never offered up a plausible explanation for how DNA from the victim’s vagina ended up in the fly of Mr. Moses’ shorts. The transference issue was kind of sketchy and the DOJ representative made the point that cells do not really just float around.
Perhaps, with a high-powered attorney, they could have gotten experts on confessions and the author of the study that showed that DNA could transfer in a washing machine, but short of that this was evidence that was just going to sink the defendant.
The juror was critical of the investigation and the fact that they seemed take the victim’s word for what happened almost immediately, and failed to do a full investigation which would have examined not only the shorts, but other clothing items.
I had found the sister’s testimony compelling, but not necessarily proof that he had sex with his daughter. After all, just because a person has sexual relations with his young sister, while he himself was a child, does not mean he had sexual relations with his daughter when he became an adult.
The juror I spoke with was not even convinced that Mr. Moses had sex with his sister. The juror thought that she was molested by someone, and the stepfather was a possibility. The incidents came out later in her life after psychotherapy. There were a host of issues there.
We also discussed the inconsistencies in the testimony of the victim. We agreed that the acts, if they were frequent, would blend in over time. The jurors were not sure about when they started, but basically believed that she was around 12 when they started.
We agreed that the assaults probably did not take place every day, but they may have seemed that way to her.
The moving around probably precluded everyday occurrence, but the feeling was even in a crowded home there would be plenty of opportunities for Mr. Moses to have access to his daughter alone.
Another issue was that of force. Here the penal code on rape was instructive, and the jury basically took the view that she was having sex under either implied or overt duress. It was not a classic physically forced rape experience. Rather, Mr. Moses was a huge man and likely scared his daughter physically. Moreover, mentally she relied on him and likely did not want to sever that tie.
Bottom line here, there were problems with the police work in this case, the confession was achieved under disturbing circumstances, but there is little doubt, given the evidence, that this crime occurred.
We could argue about what the proper punishment should be in this case. Mr. Moses had, in many ways, turned his life around following youthful offenses. Now though, he has no chance to turn his life around again, as he will spend the rest of his life in prison. Again, we could argue about the best approach here, we could dispute the investigation by West Sacramento PD, but we cannot dispute that the verdict reached was the proper one.
—David M. Greenwald reporting