News spread Friday that the Shelby County prosecutor decided to drop all charges against Pamela Moses. The move comes two months after a judge granted Moses a new trial. As reported by The Guardian, the prosecutor said she had already served enough time.
Attempting to save face, the prosecutor recounted the prior guilty verdict against Moses. Her rejecting a plea deal for a lesser offense was also mentioned. (Read more here).
Conveniently absent from the statement was the reason for the new trial. While it’s true, a jury found Moses guilty at trial a judge granted a new trial in late February after new evidence came to light. Information previously withheld from the defense cast doubt on the prosecution’s case. (Read more here).
An email obtained by The Guardian outlined the steps the probation department took to investigate the mistake in signing a certificate saying Moses’ rights were restored. This email was never provided to Moses’ attorney at trial. The prosecution also claims it’s dismissing the case solely for “judicial economy.” But if the prosecution cared about so-called judicial economy, they wouldn’t have charged her.
According to Moses, she was provided paperwork from her probation officer, which she thought cleared her to register to vote. Despite the probation officer owning the mistake, the prosecutor charged Moses, alleging she intentionally deceived everyone.
Dismissing the charges is only one step toward justice for Moses. Her voting rights still need restoration. Restoration of rights in Tennessee remains a big concern.
The complicated process has been the source of ongoing litigation. Earlier this month, a court allowed a legal challenge to move forward to ease the restoration process. Free Hearts’ legal advisor Keeda Haynes called Moses a clear example of the problems with restoring voting rights.
“Pamela Moses’ case showed that the people trying to restore their voting rights always unfairly bear the costs of Tennessee’s negligence, whether they are wrongly told they are ineligible or wrongly told they are eligible,” Haynes said in a statement earlier this month. “It’s high time the state creates a centralized process where Tennesseans can get an official answer on their eligibility and allow for an appeal if they feel that answer is wrong.”
The organization Free Hearts is leading a 2022 campaign, “Free the People, Free the Vote.” Free Hearts calls for several adjustments to existing policy, including voting rights reform. In a March op-ed, Free Hearts’ statewide organizer Gicola Lane outlined the high bar for Tennesseans attempting to regain their voting rights.
It’s estimated that less than one percent of those eligible for restoration regained their voting rights. Lane called Tennessee “the most complicated, strict and mismanaged rights restoration process.”