Prosecutor drops all charges against Pamela Moses, jailed over voting error

Prosecutor drops all charges against Pamela Moses, jailed over voting error

A Memphis prosecutor has dropped all criminal charges against Pamela Moses, the Memphis woman who was sentenced to six years in prison for trying to register to vote.

Moses was convicted last year and sentenced in January. She was granted a new trial in February after the Guardian published a document showing that had not been given to her defense ahead of the trial.

Moses was set to appear in court on Monday to find out whether prosecutors would pursue a retrial.

The central issue in her case was whether she had known she was ineligible to vote when a probation officer filled out and signed a form indicating she was done with probation for a 2015 felony conviction and eligible to cast a ballot. Even though the probation officer admitted he had made a mistake, and Moses said she had no idea she was ineligible to vote, prosecutors said she knew she was ineligible and had deceived him. Moses stood in the lobby of the probation office while the officer went to his office to research her case for about an hour, he said at trial.

The case stirred national outrage because it underscored disparities in the way Black people are punished for voting errors. Several white defendants elsewhere have been sentenced to probation for impersonating family members and voting on their behalf.

Reached by telephone, Moses declined to comment on Friday, saying she was still processing the news. She said she planned to hold a press conference on Monday in Memphis.

Amy Weirich, the Shelby county district attorney, who prosecuted the case, noted Moses had spent 82 days in jail before she was granted a new trial, “which is sufficient”.

“In the interest of judicial economy, we are dismissing her illegal registration case and her violation of probation,” she said in a statement.

She noted that Moses is permanently barred from voting in Tennessee. One of the crimes she pleaded guilty to in 2015, tampering with evidence, causes people to permanently lose their voting rights in Tennessee. During Moses’s trial, the judge overseeing the case and the two probation officers said they were unaware that was a crime that caused people to permanently lose the right to vote.

Tennessee has some of the harshest policies regarding the restoration of voting rights in the US. People with felonies cannot vote until they have completed all terms of their sentence, including probation and parole. They must have paid off all fines and fees and be up to date on their child support. They must also go through a process in which they get a probation or criminal justice official to sign off on their eligibility, and there is often confusion about the requirements. There is continuing litigation challenging the process.

More than one in five otherwise eligible Black voters – 175,000 people – cannot vote in Tennessee because of a felony conviction, according to an estimate by the Sentencing Project, a criminal justice non-profit organization.

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