A Georgia woman on trial for allegedly starving her stepdaughter to death and burning the body in a trashcan has decided to go without the help of a lawyer and represent herself.
Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty for Tiffany Moss, who is accused of starving 10-year-old Emani Moss to death and then burning her body in 2013. When Emani’s body was found in a dumpster outside the apartment where she lived with her father and Tiffany, she weighed only 32 pounds, reported the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
Although nearly everyone associated with the case has advised Tiffany Moss to use an attorney, she has insisted it's God’s will for her to proceed alone. As a result, Gwinnett County judge hearing the case decided to delay the trial until the state’s highest court can review his decision to allow Moss to be her own lawyer.
Instead of preparing legal documents, filing motions, and reviewing evidence, Moss has decided to prepare for her case “in a more spiritual way than, you know, a physical way,” according to the AJC.
An example of Moss’ lack of preparation was witnessed when the state sought to admit hearsay testimony from Moss’s son at trial. During the hearing, Moss asked Superior Court Judge George Hutchinson III not to allow the testimony. When the judge asked her to give him a legal basis for her objection, Moss responded: “Legal basis, I don’t know.”
Atlanta defense attorney Don Samuel, who’s authored books on criminal case law, thinks Moss’ decision could be lethal.
“Anyone would say it’s a terrible decision, the one she’s making,” Samuel told the AJC. “If she gets up there and says, ‘I’m leaving it up to God,’ I guess there could be come jurors who might think she doesn’t deserve to die. But as a lawyer, my response is that she could be walking herself into a death sentence.”
Moss was initially provided two lawyers from the state public defender’s system; however, she told the court of her decision to represent herself last November. Moss said she changed her mind when the public defenders encouraged her to accept the prosecution’s offer to plead guilty in exchange for a sentence of life in prison without parole.
“I had already expressed that I did not wish to [plead guilty], which led me to further come to the conclusion that it would be in my best interest to represent myself,” she explained.
Although prosecutors also sought the death penalty against Moss’s husband, Eman Moss, he pleaded guilty to his role in his daughter’s death. Additionally, Eman agreed to testify against his wife in exchanged for a life sentence without parole.