Thursday, June 11, 2015

KYSC - Moore- PFO reversal

Arnold Moore v. Commonwealth; Kentucky Supreme Court; June 11, 2015; To Be Published

Following a guilty verdict on manufacturing methamphetamine and possession charges, the trial proceeded to the PFO phase. Arnold had a prior felony conviction that was entered 5 years and 7 months before the date of offense in this case. The prosecutor introduced that judgement but chose not to call any witnesses. 

The Supreme Court granted directed verdict on the PFO charge and reiterated the prosecution bears the affirmative burden to prove every element of PFO beyond a reasonable doubt. The prosecutor failed to meet this burden because no evidence, whether testimony or document, created a reasonable inference that Arnold was still incarcerated or on some form of supervised release with 5 years of this offense. 

The Court reversed his PFO 1st conviction and 50 year sentence and remanded the case to impose the 15 year sentence for the underlying convictions, which reduced Arnold’s sentence by 35 years. Given the lackadaisical effort by the prosecutor that had a dramatic impact on the sentence, the Supreme Court took the opportunity to emphasize the serious nature of the PFO portion of the trial:

 “As illustrated by this case, the PFO phase of the trial is of substantial and potentially life-changing significance to all parties involved, and to the general public. Given the gravity of its consequences, we would presume that this phase of the trial would be handled with the utmost respect, not as a mere after-thought or postscript of the guilt phase. The somewhat haphazard presentation of PFO evidence that we occasionally see suggests a less than serious commitment to this vital aspect of criminal trial procedure.” 

Greg Griffith represented Arnold at trial, where he made an aggressive argument for directed verdict and followed it up with a substantive post-trial motion for acquittal. Sam Potter represented Arnold on appeal.

Contributed by Sam Potter