Attorneys for Moore, Latham file for acquittal or retrial
CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCIV) - Attorneys for Wendy Moore and Chris Latham have been busy since their clients were convicted in a murder-for-hire trial in February.
According to court documents, attorneys for Moore and Latham filed for an acquittal or new trial for their clients based on a series of motions that range from complaints on the indictments and jury charges and the reliability of Aaron Wilkinson's testimony as a basis for conviction.
Attorneys David Aylor and Stephen Schmutz filed nearly a dozen motions on Moore and Latham's behalf.
The first motion claims that the judge improperly instructed the jury on convicting the couple of the interstate commerce charge. In Aylor's motion, he argues that the jury was told to consider whether Moore traveled to Kentucky for the murder-for-hire plot, or if she commissioned others - namely Wilkinson and Samuel Yenawine - to travel as part of the plot.
Aylor argues the indictment only included Moore's traveling between Kentucky and South Carolina in the plot, which was never documented in the weeks-long trial.
"Because this fatal variance is an error of requiring reversal on appeal, the Court must grant Moore's post-trial motion for a new trial, either conditionally if the Court orders an acquittal and the acquittal is reversed on appeal, or in the alternative to a judgment of acquittal," Aylor writes.
Schmutz argues for Latham that the Government aimed to prove he aided and abetted in the travel between the two states with the understanding that it was for a murder plot. But Schmutz says Latham was unjustly charged as a "co-participant in jointly undertaken criminal activity" because it expanded the scope of the murder-for-hire charge without defining what the charge means, refers to, or how it differs from the rest of the charge.
Schmutz asks a series of questions, ending with: To what further charges does [Latham's] conviction of "criminal activity" enable [Latham] to plead double jeopardy?
Schmutz and Aylor also argue in another motion that evidence of attorney payments were admitted into the proceedings improperly, saying that the co-defendants had relationships that were immaterial to the trial and not suspect.
During the trial, jurors heard that Latham paid for Moore's fees and Moore arranged for her parents to pay for Yenawine's fees. The attorneys called the admission of this activity to be "highly prejudicial" because the payments were made after the crimes were committed.
"There are legitimate reasons beyond an alleged 'cover up' for Latham and Moore to have aided each other and Yenawine to obtain counsel: Latham and Moore's relationship, and the fact that Yenawine and Moore were formerly married and Yenawine is the father of her children," Aylor argued.
They go on to argue that using that information in the trial punished the defendants for seeking representation in the case.
Schmutz and Aylor also take aim at Wilkinson again, saying he was prepared by his mother before he took the stand because she read him local media reports of what was being said in court.
"[It allowed] Wilkinson to conform his testimony to that of the earlier witnesses," Aylor wrote, adding that Wilkinson's mother told him about the pay scenarios for Nancy Latham's death and how he was tricked into coming to Charleston.
Schmutz and Aylor conclude that Wilkinson's testimony should have been stricken as a result. They go on to say that Wilkinson had a motive in his plea deal for adapting his testimony to match what was said on the stand by other witnesses.
During two days of cross-examination, defense attorneys attacked Wilkinson for changing his testimony over time. He refuted the allegations he was changing his story by saying the details of his arrest and the plot came clearer as he stayed sober.
Ultimately, Schmutz and Aylor conclude that Wilkinson's lack of credibility undermines the reliability of the verdict and call for a new trial or acquittal of the charges.
Moore was convicted on all four counts she was facing; Latham on just one. On two other charges, the jury was hung and the U.S. Government said it would not re-try the case on those two charges.
Latham and Moore are still awaiting a sentencing hearing.??