State capital defender Brad Gardner tells Superior Court Judge George Hutchinson on Thursday that he and his colleague Emily Gilbert will file a motion seeking to intervene in the case and represent Tiffany Moss during the trial’s penalty phase. (Bob Andres / bandres@ajc.com)

Attorneys try to intervene as woman in capital trial mounts no defense

After seeing their former client remain silent throughout her death penalty trial, doing nothing to defend herself as she acts as her own lawyer, two capital public defenders are trying to intervene.

In a motion filed Thursday, defenders Brad Gardner and Emily Gilbert acknowledged that the right to self-representation is permitted during the guilt-innocence phase of a trial. But it doesn’t necessarily extend to the sentencing phase of a death penalty trial, they said.

They are asking Gwinnett County Superior Court Judge George Hutchinson to reappoint them as Tiffany Moss’ attorneys if the jury finds her guilty of murder and finds the case eligible for a death sentence. That way, they could represent her during the penalty phase, expected sometime next week.


RELATED | Moss murder trial, Day Two: Horrifying details from dead girl’s father


“The public interest in the fair and efficient administration of justice is all the greater in the context of a capital sentencing proceeding, as the defendant’s life literally hangs in the balance,” the motion said.

During the penalty phase, the jury can impose a sentence of life with the possibility of parole, life without parole, or death by lethal injection.

“The jury will have nothing upon which to base a life sentence, not because Mrs. Moss wanted the death penalty, but because she was incapable of representing herself,” the motion said. “Society’s interest in justice is not served by such a one-sided and arbitrary proceeding.”

Gardner and Gilbert were initially assigned to represent Moss, who is accused of starving her 10-year-old stepdaughter Emani to death. They objected when Moss was allowed to represent herself. They also filed motions disclosing that Moss previously suffered a brain injury.

X