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The government wants Corey Moore — bad. For the past six years, the U.S. Attorney’s Office has been trying to convict the Southeast Washington, D.C., resident of first-degree murder and assault with intent to kill for the 1994 shooting death of Byron Hammond and the wounding of Reginald Jackson. Three trials all concluded with the same result: a hung jury. This week, the government will try Moore a fourth time, and prosecutors are hoping that a new piece of evidence will convince jurors that Moore shot Hammond and Jackson from the back seat of an old Plymouth Grand Fury in a wooded area near St. Elizabeth’s Hospital in D.C. Prosecutors, however, must convince D.C. Superior Court Judge Russell Canan that the evidence — a letter allegedly written by Moore — is admissible. The government’s continued pursuit of Moore shows how it has become a point of pride in the U.S. Attorney’s Office not to let the 25-year-old defendant go. It also speaks to the difficulty in securing a conviction when mistakes were made by police at the outset of their investigation and when the only eyewitness, a victim no less, initially told police a different story. Prosecutors have also relied upon — and will continue to do so in the latest trial — testimony from witnesses who have criminal records of their own, including murderers. Many, in fact, cut deals with the government in exchange for their testimony against Moore. Jurors in Moore’s previous trials have said that such testimony undermined the government’s case. In reality, the government’s theory is quite simple: Moore killed Hammond in an act of revenge. Jackson, according to prosecutors, just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. In late October 1994, Moore, then 19, was released from prison after being acquitted in a separate shooting. While in prison, according to the government, Moore had heard that Hammond gunned down a longtime friend of Moore. On his first day back on the street, police say, Moore obtained a .45-caliber Colt pistol and sought out Hammond. The next day, Moore befriended him, and on Oct. 27, just three days after his release, Moore was riding in the back seat of Hammond’s car, police say. Hammond drove, while Jackson rode in the front passenger seat, to a secluded area of D.C.’s Anacostia neighborhood, where they drank R�my Martin cognac and smoked a blunt, police say. After a quick trip to a nearby gas station for cigarettes, the three returned to their spot. It was then that Moore opened fire, killing Hammond and shooting Jackson through the neck, police contend. Jackson survived and became the government’s chief witness. But Jackson’s testimony has been problematic. For one, he lied on three occasions to hospital staff and police about his identity and how he was shot. And it wasn’t Jackson who led police to Moore. Rather, it was an individual arrested for a murder who initially fingered Moore. Police also made serious investigative mistakes, including towing Hammond’s car before the entire vehicle could be examined. Police never recovered the murder weapon, nor could they find any physical evidence to prove that Moore had been in the back seat. Despite problems with the case that would derail many homicide investigations, the U.S. Attorney’s Office pressed on with the prosecution, even adding Moore’s name to its “Major Violator Program,” an internal list of about 35 people suspected of being the District’s most dangerous repeat offenders. Moore was placed on this list because of his long arrest record, which includes crimes ranging from murder to armed robbery. But he has only one adult conviction, for gun possession. The bulk of the government’s case hinges on testimony from convicts who have turned state’s evidence. It also hasn’t helped the government’s cause that Moore always seems to secure good counsel: Bernard Grimm for his first trial and Veronice Holt for the past two. This time, Moore is represented by Nikki Lotze of Riverdale, Md.’s Roberts & Wood. Defense lawyers say she’s been on a winning streak. “Corey Moore is innocent, and I’m confident that the government still doesn’t have enough evidence to convict him of a crime he didn’t commit,” Lotze says. Moore, who was in prison since his 1994 arrest for a gun charge, was released by Judge Nan Shuker last year after the third mistrial. Lotze says Moore has had no trouble with the law since his release. The government, meanwhile, has enlisted two of its most highly regarded assistants to prosecute the case: Assistant U.S. Attorneys Glenn Kirschner and Jennifer Collins. Kirschner and Collins have been trying to persuade Judge Canan to admit a letter allegedly written by Moore that they believe is essential to proving his guilt. Prosecutors say the letter, written in street slang, was sent to Derrick Miller, a former friend of Moore who is now a government witness. The letter states in part, “Phats don’t fake on me, I know I’ll be alright,” and goes on to say “it’s not my fault … he played out on me.” The government interprets the letter to mean that Moore was asking Miller, who was also known as Phats, not to snitch on him and that Jackson played dead after being shot, so it’s not Moore’s fault that Jackson is still alive. The letter, which the government claims to have had since 1996, surfaced in court midway through Moore’s last trial in October 1999. At the time, Judge Shuker ruled it inadmissible for several reasons — one being that there was no evidence that Moore’s defense lawyer ever received a copy. Judge Canan said in court that he would rule on the matter before opening remarks begin this week. Given that Moore has been tried three times over the past four years, it is not surprising that his case has entangled a number of lawyers and witnesses, including some from other high-profile cases. For example, during Moore’s 1998 trial, Judge Susan Winfield allowed Holt to claim that the late Reuben “Ratman” Bell was the gunman. Holt produced a witness who testified that Bell, on the day after the shooting, said that he “smoked Bones last night,” referring to Hammond by his nickname of “Bones.” (Bell, a D.C. boxer, was gunned down at Washington Hospital Center in 1998.) Just last week, Canan summoned Grimm, Moore’s first attorney, to explain information that Grimm obtained regarding one of the government’s key witnesses. The information surfaced in the case of Tomar Locker, Grimm’s client who was acquitted by reason of insanity in the shooting death of Bell. Grimm told Canan that Derrick Miller gave him an oral statement that says Miller was present at a 1994 shooting where Locker was wounded and his girlfriend, Keisha Cragg, was killed. Locker believes Bell was the gunman. According to one source who was present at the hearing, Grimm told the court last Thursday that detectives investigating Moore had this information for several years, but that it was never given to him in the first Moore trial. When Grimm cross-examined Miller in the first trial, he testified that he knew nothing about the Locker shooting. Canan questioned Grimm about the statement, but did not order him to turn it over to the court, this source says. “Both sides had requested [the statement],” Grimm says, adding that because of ethical concerns he wanted Canan to decide the issue.” At this point, everyone is now armed with the information.”

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