Jury convicts man of killing girlfriend with claw hammer

Published 12:00 am Thursday, December 9, 2004

NATCHEZ &045; Greg Moffett will spend the rest of his life in a maximum-security prison.

Circuit Court Judge Forrest A. Johnson handed down the life sentence at Thursday afternoon’s murder trial just minutes after the jury returned a guilty verdict following two and a half hours of deliberation.

&uot;Hundreds of criminals have come before me,&uot; Johnson told Moffett before giving the sentence. &uot;Yet it remains difficult for me to comprehend how a human being could take the life of another human being with a claw hammer.&uot;

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After the jury’s verdict was read, Zadier Thomas, the younger sister of murder victim Tatanisha Thomas, spoke to Moffett on behalf of the family.

&uot;We have to live with this every day,&uot; Thomas said. &uot;What can we say, we have no explanation. You say you are hurting, but it’s only half of what we are feeling.

&uot;I could stand here and call you many different names, but I’m not going to do that. I’m going to pray for you.&uot;

Though advised against it by attorney Eileen Maher, Moffett spoke in response to the Thomas family and to his own family.

&uot;I’m sorry about what happened,&uot; he said. &uot;I didn’t commit this crime but they had to find someone to convict. I’m sorry for the pain and I’m sorry about all the pain I brought her all those years, but in this case I did not do it.&uot;

Prior to Thomas’ death, Moffett, her live-in boyfriend and the father of her two children, had been convicted of domestic violence against her two times.

The third day of the trial started with Moffett’s own testimony. Maher led Moffett through phone records that showed his whereabouts at various times on the night of Dec. 6, 2003, and early morning of the murder, Dec. 7. Moffett told the jury about his efforts early Sunday morning to get a ride to a club and listed times he was on the phone with friends from 2:07 a.m. until 2:13 a.m. when he left his house on foot.

By around 2:20 a.m. Moffett said he was with three other friends, who testified Wednesday to his whereabouts, and made a stop at Zipy’s convenience store on Martin Luther King Jr. Street.

In testimony Wednesday Natchez Police Department Investigator Gary Nations had said he suspected the murder happened in an 8-10 minute span around 2:16 to 2:25 a.m.

Under cross-examination Moffett responded to Assistant District Attorney David Hall’s questions, saying nearly every witness the prosecution put on the stand was lying.

Moffett would not tell Hall where he was in the days after the murder, only saying he was constantly moving in Natchez. Concordia Parish Sheriff’s officers found Moffett at a business on the highway between Ferriday and Jonesville, La., on Dec. 10, 2003. He never came back to the scene of the crime and led police on a search for him in the area for four days.

Moffett said CPSO Deputy Todd Ainsworth, Brumfield Apartments resident Carolyn Harris, neighbor Damien Davis and Nations all lied on the witness stand Wednesday about the things Moffett did and said.

After the defense rested Maher filed a motion for a mistrial saying Wednesday’s witness Tanja Butler, a NPD investigator on the case, started to give expert opinions on blood splatters that the defense was not privy to. Johnson denied the motion and continued the trial with closing statements.

&uot;Everybody’s bad but Greg Moffett,&uot; Hall sarcastically told the jury in his closing remarks. &uot;He put holes in her head with this claw hammer but everyone we put up here is just a bunch of liars.

&uot;We are talking about credibility here folks. Who do you believe?&uot;

During the defense’s closing statements, part of which Moffett delivered himself, he stressed that he has always admitted his mistakes, still insisting he did not kill Thomas.

&uot;As for my past history, I’m guilty of that,&uot; Moffett said. &uot;I admitted to that because I did that. Everything I have done I have admitted to.

&uot;If you convict me I could care less; if you don’t convict me I could care less. I feel like I did the right thing by God.&uot;

Maher asked the jury to give Moffett the benefit of the doubt considering there was no evidence directly linking him to the crime, saying there was a reasonable doubt of the defendant’s guilt.

District Attorney Ronnie Harper latched on to Maher’s definition of reasonable doubt, saying it was up to each member of the jury to define reasonable doubt.

&uot;It’s not reasonable that everyone we put up here lied,&uot; Harper said. &uot;It’s not reasonable that everyone in this court lied but him. Just because one guy gets on the witness stand and says he didn’t do it, that’s not reasonable doubt.

&uot;I’ll tell you what is reasonable, it’s reasonable to believe he had the propensity to commit this crime. It’s reasonable to believe he had the opportunity to commit this crime.&uot;

Harper went on to say that all the places Moffett claimed he was on Dec. 7, 2003 were within a few minutes of each other.

&uot;How long does it take to hit somebody three times with a hammer?&uot; Harper said while swinging the murder weapon in front of the jury.

Jury members also viewed multiple gruesome photos of Thomas’ dead body and watched a video of the body during testimony on Tuesday and Wednesday. Jurors were visibly shaken during Wednesday’s video and appeared troubled throughout the trial.

Several jurors cried during the reading of the verdict and sentencing Thursday.

Security was heightened at the trial Thursday after box cutters and knifes were found in the courthouse Tuesday night. Several warnings from the judge about emotional outbursts and the presence of many law enforcement officers helped keep the situation calm at the end of the trial.

Moffett’s supporters, seated in the balcony, let out some rumblings after the sentence was read, to which Moffett turned and repeatedly said &uot;chill out.&uot;

The life sentence without parole is to be served at the state penitentiary Parchman. Because of two previous felony convictions, one for battery and the other for sale of a controlled substance, Moffett was ruled a habitual offender.

After the trial Zadier Thomas and her mother Ernestine said they were glad it was over, but said the pain was still there.

&uot;It takes some of the stress off, but healing, I don’t think we’ll ever be able to heal.&uot;