Three weeks out of a mental hospital, Curtis Jasper Moore spent the night of Jan. 8, 1975, at the Emporia, Va., police station asking for his mother. He sang “The Ballad of Paladin,” the theme song of an old television Western, and his focus wandered. According to a transcript of the interrogation reported by the Richmond Times-Dispatch. Greensville County Sheriff Earl D. Sasser kept telling him, “Look at me. Look at me.” Losing his patience, Sasser said: “You’re not half as damn nuts as you act like you are, you know that? You know what happened last week, don’t you?” Moore implicated himself and was convicted of one of the worst crimes in Emporia history: the rape and murder of Eva King Jones, an 88-year-old pillar of the community.
Thirty-three years later — two years after Moore’s death — the case was reopened, and police charged an Emporia sex offender with the slaying. Guilt or innocence aside, “it seems the police broke every rule in the book” during Moore’s interrogation, said Steven A. Drizin, a law professor and an expert on false confessions. Found guilty in 1978, Moore’s convictions were thrown out five years later, after federal courts ruled his rights had been violated. The new charges are the result of a groundbreaking, 3-year-old DNA review using evidence in old state forensic files in an effort to clear people wrongly convicted of serious crimes from 1973 through 1988.