Georgia high court to hear appeal of murder sentence

The Georgia Supreme Court will hear arguments today in an appeal by an Augusta man convicted of capital murder in November 2000.

Marcus Rolando Moore’s attorney contends that he should be resentenced to life in prison with the possibility of parole because in 2005 the U.S. Supreme Court found it unconstitutional to impose a death sentence on anyone under the age of 18.

Moore was 17 years old when he shot three people in a Westwood Village apartment on Nov. 24, 2000. He killed Niteka Wesbey and Corey McMillan, both 18. Larry Sanders Jr., who was 19 at the time, was wounded.

Moore was tried and convicted in Richmond County Superior Court in 2001. The trial was set to go into the penalty phase – when evidence can be presented to persuade a jury to impose a death sentence or life in prison with or without the possibility of parole – when Moore agreed to a life sentence without the possibility of parole. He also agreed to give up all appellate rights.

However, Moore filed an appeal in 2011. His attorney contends that because he could not face a death sentence under the U.S. Supreme Court ruling, the life without parole sentence – only possible at that time if a prosecutor sought the death penalty – should be voided.

The attorney general’s office contends that Moore’s sentence is valid and should stand. Though the U.S. Supreme Court did find it unconstitutional to impose a death sentence on juvenile murderers, the court has not found it unconstitutional to impose a sentence of life in prison without parole on juveniles who commit murder.

The state will also argue that Georgia law was changed in 2009 to enable prosecutors to seek a sentence of life in prison without parole in any murder case.

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For the record