State Supreme Court upholds life sentence for Hubert Moore’s killer

Published 9:14 am Wednesday, March 22, 2023

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On October 26, 2017, Post-Searchlight employee Hubert Moore was killed in an attempted robbery-turned-felony murder. Three individuals were initially indicted in the crime: Ronnie McFadden, Louis Ousley and Thaddas Nundra. The three had attempted to rob Moore in the early morning hours as he had come in to work, with Nundra fatally shooting Moore. McFadden was acquitted of all charges except for conspiracy to commit burglary, while Ousley accepted a plea deal in exchange for testimony against Nundra. Nundra was found guilty on February 14, 2019, and sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole, followed by a consecutive seven and a half years. Nundra made attempts to appeal this decision, asserting that the trial court made four errors, claiming that “the cumulative effect of those errors requires reversal.” The State Supreme Court released its opinions this week, in which they upheld and affirmed Nundra’s convictions.

In the decision, written by Presiding Justice Nels S.D. Peterson, the Supreme Court assumed without deciding that the trial court did make two errors, first being that the court,abused its discretion in admitting evidence of Nundra’s 1997 convictions for armed robbery and hijacking a motor vehicle,” and second that the court “erred in admitting certain evidence of the victim’s good character”. The Court however came to the conclusion that these were “harmless, both individually and cumulatively.”

The Court went on to reject Nundra’s remaining objections, first that the trial court abused its discretion by comparing Nundra to serial killers such as Jeffrey Dahmer and Ted Bundy, and secondly, the introduction of DNA evidence analyzed with TrueAllele Software. On the first objection, Peterson wrote, “Lawyers have wide latitude in closing arguments. And while these comments were certainly inflammatory, they were based on permissible inferences from evidence in the record.”

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On the second objection, TrueAllele software was used to analyze genetic material found on a stocking hat that had been used to conceal the murder weapon. The hat was found to contain DNA profiles of four individuals, according to GBI forensic biologist Emily Mathis. According to Mathis, the software compares reference genetic samples to known individuals to evidence samples, and proceeds to assign statistical weight to the likelihood of a match between the two. Mathis stated, “it was approximately two billion times more probable that the evidence matched Thaddas Nundra,” and not another random individual. Nundra asserted in his appeal that there was not enough evidence that the software was reliable. On this, Peterson writes, “The State responds that Nundra never objected to the expert’s probability testimony, ‘nor did he object to the TrueAllele program or its results on the basis he now contests[.]’ Thus, the State says, the issue can be reviewed only for plain error, and Nundra cannot show error because the likelihood a sample would match any random person goes to the weight of the evidence, not its admissibility. We agree.”

With this decision, the State Supreme Court has upheld the murder sentence and life imprisonment sentence for Thaddas Nundra.