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Moonshadow Taggart

Other California Exonerations
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Moonshadow Taggart of Ridgecrest, California, was 33 years old when she entered a guilty plea in the Superior Court of Kern County, California on November 10, 2014 to possession of a stolen vehicle. Because of prior convictions, she received a two-year sentence at the county jail. Including the two months she was in jail awaiting trial, Taggart served 202 days but was released on March 31, 2015 by the Kern County Board of Parole after agreeing to abide by a lengthy list of rules, including a requirement not to leave the county without the board’s permission.

In the spring of 2015, a parole officer made several unsuccessful attempts to contact Taggart at her address of record. An arrest warrant was issued on June 26, 2015, and Taggart was arrested out-of-state on August 17, and brought back to Kern County.

She was charged with escape, convicted by a jury on March 28, 2016, and then sentenced on June 24, 2016 to seven years and eight months in prison. Her sentence included time for the escape conviction, as well as additional time for violating parole on the stolen-car conviction.

Taggart appealed to California’s Fifth District Court of Appeal, which overturned her escape conviction on January 23, 2019. The court said that while Taggart was in violation of the conditions of her parole, her actions did not constitute an escape. The state had argued that her parole was a form of “legal custody,” but the two judges who signed the majority opinion wrote: “We instead interpret ‘lawful custody’ according to its ordinary meaning and consistent with the structure of the statute and its legislative purpose as requiring actual physical custody or significant physical constraint.”

Taggart had been released from prison on April 20, 2018 and was under community supervision while her appeal was pending. After the appellate decision, her case was remanded to Kern County for resentencing on her parole violation. At a hearing on May 8, 2019, she was sentenced to four years in prison for the parole violation and four years, to run concurrently, for a previous drug possession. But Taggart was deemed to have fulfilled those sentences because she had accrued sufficient credits while incarcerated, and she was released from all supervision.

On June 28, 2019, Taggart filed for compensation from the California Victim Compensation and Government Claims Board. The California Attorney General’s office reviewed her claim and agreed that Taggart was innocent of escape. On November 4, 2019, the board voted to award her $136,780, or $140 for each day she was in custody after her arrest and conviction for escape.

– Ken Otterbourg

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Posting Date: 1/28/2020
State:California
County:Kern
Most Serious Crime:Other Nonviolent Felony
Additional Convictions:
Reported Crime Date:2015
Convicted:2016
Exonerated:2019
Sentence:7 years and 8 months
Race:White
Sex:Female
Age at the date of reported crime:34
Contributing Factors:
Did DNA evidence contribute to the exoneration?:No