On the evening of March 12, 1999, Karen Tipton was murdered in her home in Decatur, Alabama. Her husband called the police to tell them he had found her body. She had been sexually assaulted and stabbed 28 times. There were no signs of a break-in, but numerous items had been stolen from the apartment, including jewelry, a video camera, and Tipton’s purse.
Daniel Wade Moore was arrested in November 2000, after his uncle told police Moore had confessed that he was at Tipton’s house while she was murdered, though he claimed he was on a different floor and not involved in the killing. At trial, prosecutors relied mainly on this alleged confession, and on DNA samples taken from two hairs found at the scene of the crime, which ruled out 99.8% percent of the population, but not Moore. There was no other physical evidence linking Moore to the crime. Moore, a drug addict who had been in trouble with the law, admitted that he had told his uncle he was at the house at the time of the murders, but said he made that up to scare him so that he would stop bothering him about his legal troubles. Moore was convicted in November 2002, and on January 23, 2003, he was sentenced to death.
Shortly after the trial, the prosecutor told the judge that there was a 245-page FBI file that had not been turned over to the defense, which included evidence that Tipton was carrying on an extramarital affair, and pointed to Tipton’s husband as a possible suspect. The judge overturned Moore’s conviction in February 2003, and in 2005 declared that, due to the intentional misconduct of the prosecutors, trying Moore again would violate his constitutional protection against double jeopardy. Moore was released from prison, but arrested again five days later when an appellate court overturned the trial court’s decision and ordered a retrial.
Before Moore’s second trial, a neighbor came forward and provided a sworn statement that she had seen Tipton after the time that police said she had been killed. The defense presented this testimony and information from the FBI file at the March 2008 trial, which ended in a mistrial when the jury was unable to come to a decision. A third trial was held in May 2009. On May 14, Moore was acquitted of all charges, and he was released from prison the same day.
- Alexandra Gross