Courts rule that Georgia woman accused of starving child can represent self

Courts rule that Georgia woman accused of starving child can represent self

ATLANTA (AP) - The Georgia Supreme Court declined to hear an appeal on whether a woman accused of starving her 10-year-old stepdaughter to death is able to represent herself.

That means Tiffany Moss is now on track to represent herself as she faces the death penalty in the 2013 case.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports the court declined on Thursday to hear an appeal by two lawyers from the state’s public defender system who were trying to overturn a lower court’s decision allowing Moss to represent herself.

The case was scheduled for last July but was postponed to allow the appeal to go forward. No new date has been set.

Authorities say 10-year-old Emani Moss weighed only 32 pounds when her body was found.

Criminal defendants have the right to represent themselves but it’s very rare that they do so during a case where the death penalty is on the table.

During a pretrial hearing Superior Court Judge George Hutchinson found her competent to stand trial but also stressed to her the importance of getting legal representation.

“They are seeking to have you executed, and I can’t be more blunt than to say they are trying to have you killed,” the judge said. “That’s just as serious as it can possibly get and I think it’s best that you have an attorney.”

The judge also appointed two public defenders to serve as standby counsel and represent her if she decided to change her mind. The two lawyers appealed the judge’s decision to allow Moss to defend herself to the state Supreme Court.

One of the public defenders, Emily Gilbert, Friday expressed disappointment in the high court’s decision.

“We are extremely concerned about her ability to navigate through this death-penalty trial,” Gilbert said. “At this point, we’re still standby counsel but have gotten no word from her that she wants our assistance.”

Prosecutors had also sought the death penalty against the 10-year-old’s father, Eman Moss, but he agreed to testify against Tiffany Moss in exchange for a sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole.