The prosecution rested its case Friday in the death-penalty case against Tiffany Moss, having presented harrowing photos and witness testimony.
The defendant, representing herself, told the judge she did not wish to testify in her defense or present any evidence on her behalf.“
No witnesses, your honor,” Moss told Superior Court Judge George Hutchinson with the jury present.
“The defense rests,” Hutchinson then told jurors before sending them home for the weekend. Closing arguments are set for Monday.
Moss is accused of starving her 10-year-old stepdaughter Emani to death in the fall of 2013. She is also accused of trying to conceal the death by burning Emani’s body in a galvanized trash can in a remote area of Gwinnett County.
The state’s last witness was Dr. Michele Stauffenberg, the medical examiner who conducted Emani’s autopsy after police found her body on Nov. 2, 2013. Emani weighed 32 pounds at the time of her death, when most children her age weighed between 54 and 103 pounds.
“She was more or less skin and bones,” Stauffenberg said. “She was extremely thin and emaciated. She had a starved look.”
Stauffenberg determined Emani’s cause of death to be starvation and her manner of death to be homicide.
Prosecutor Lisa Jones then presented more than a dozen autopsy photos to Moss at the defense table, turning them over one by one so she could see them before they were put into evidence. When Jones finished, Moss closed her eyes and put her head down.
As Jones displayed the photos one by one on a screen on the courtroom wall, Moss never once looked up at the pictures. Jurors were noticeably disturbed by the images of the emaciated, charred body of the young girl.
Earlier Friday, Moss, who presented no opening statement and asked no questions of defense witnesses, finally spoke up, telling the judge she would like to meet with him in private outside the presence of the prosecution.
Two capital defenders, whom Hutchinson appointed as Moss’ standby counsel in case she needed help, requested the private meeting on her behalf.
Before the Friday lunch break, Hutchinson said he wanted to hear from Moss what she had to say about the request.
“Just, um, certain situation as far as going forward from this point,” she said.
On Thursday, Moss’ standby lawyers filed a motion trying to intervene in her case, asserting Moss had the right to represent herself during the guilt-innocence phase of the trial but not during the sentencing phase if she’s convicted of murder.
Likely because of this motion, Hutchinson asked Moss if this had to do with her representation.
“It would be something I need later, and we’re bringing it up now,” she said.
The prosecution’s witnesses included the defendant’s husband, Eman Moss, 35. He is serving a sentence of life in prison without parole for his role in Emani’s death. He pleaded guilty in August 2015 and agreed to testify against his wife if the state wouldn’t seek the death penalty against him.
On Thursday, he laid out in troubling detail how he and his wife attempted to conceal the death of 10-year-old Emani by putting her body in a galvanized trash can and lighting it on fire.
The body failed to burn to ashes and Eman Moss eventually reported his daughter’s death to police.
Please return to ajc.com for updates on this developing story.
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