Pubdate: Thu, 14 Feb 2002
Source: Florence Times Daily (AL)
Copyright: 2002 Times Daily
Author: Bernie Delinski, Staff Writer


Crime Resulted From Failed Drug Deal, Victim Says

TUSCUMBIA - Sonja Renall Underwood stared straight ahead Wednesday as
Colbert County Presiding Circuit Judge Hal Hughston read verdicts
proclaiming him guilty of attempted murder and two counts of
first-degree robbery.

On the other side of the courtroom, Eric Moss retained his composure
as he gave a nod to family members. Moments later, Moss, 18, hugged
his family as some shed tears of relief.

His family said Moss also has shed the lifestyle that landed him on
the pavement of a barren Leighton road with a shotgun wound to the
back of his head in June.

Underwood shot Moss on June 8 after a failed drug deal on an unnamed
road off County Line Road. He then took about $2,800 from him.

Moss' friend, Nick Musgrave, had $300-$500 in his sock, which also was
taken, according to testimony.

The two robbery convictions stem from the money taken from Moss and

A sentencing date has not been set. Underwood's attorney, Sheila
Morgan, said she plans to appeal.

Colbert County District Attorney Gary Alverson said this type of case
is becoming all too common.

He was referring to cases in which someone assaults or steals from
someone who is also committing an illegal act.

"They think that because the victim was involved in a criminal act,
their crime against the victim will go unpunished," Alverson said.

"It's becoming a problem, not just here, but nationwide," he said.
"Obviously, the jurors are fed up with it, too.

"That's not to condone anything the victim did. But if this is allowed
to go on and on, and no one comes forward and complains, how long will
it continue?"

Alverson said he has been involved in cases such as this that result
in innocent bystanders or family members getting hurt.

Moss' family said it was difficult to sit through the trial and listen
to the testimony. Moss sat quietly throughout the trial, a neck tattoo
concealed by his shirt collar.

Some mistakenly thought the tattoo is a gang emblem, but it is the
Asian symbol for righteousness.

Moss testified Wednesday morning that he and Musgrave purchased
marijuana June 8 on Jarmon Lane.

They sold it, and returned that evening to Jarmon Lane, where the
person who helped them with the purchase earlier that day got in their
car and directed them to the unnamed road.

The drug deal didn't transpire because there was a disagreement
between Underwood and Moss about whether the money or marijuana should
be produced first.

Moss was outside the car and Underwood pulled a shotgun from the trunk
of another car.

Moss said he turned and ran, still clutching the $2,800 he was going
to use for the purchase.

"I heard a bang, and as soon as I heard a bang, I couldn't see
anything," he said.

His vision returned moments later, and Musgrave put him in the car and
took him to Shoals Hospital.

Dr. Joseph Horton, a neurosurgeon and radiologist at University
Hospital in Birmingham, testified that a pellet from the shot remains
lodged in an artery in Moss' brain that goes to the brain stem. It
cannot be removed.

During closing arguments, Morgan said there is no physical evidence
against her client and the only testimony about what happened on the
unnamed road was from drug dealers.

She added that some testimony revealed different stories, including
whether the person who shot Moss wore a black or white T-shirt.

Holding a copy of the Alabama Code, Alverson asked jurors to focus on
the crime, not the victim.

"The Alabama Code doesn't state it's against the law to try to take
the human life of everyone except drug dealers," he said. "It says
it's against the law to try to take any human life."

Alverson added that the testimony was from drug dealers because that's
the crowd Underwood ran with and therefore was the crowd present
during the shooting. "If the devil himself were on trial, do you think
there would be angels from heaven testifying?" Alverson asked.
- ---
MAP posted-by: Richard Lake