Conflicting Suspect Descriptions Lead To Not Guilty Verdict In Library Attack

A man accused of hitting a library patron with a chair in San Francisco’s main library last year was found not guilty of the crime, the San Francisco public defender’s office announced today.

Clifton Moore, 26, was acquitted by a jury of all charges in the Sept. 11, 2013, attack after the public defender’s office presented evidence suggesting Moore was a victim of mistaken identity.

Moore was arrested that afternoon after a library patron using a computer in the main library at 100 Larkin St. was hit from behind with a chair, causing a 2-inch-deep cut on his scalp, according to the public defender’s office.

The victim, a 61-year-old homeless man, did not see who attacked him but library security and witnesses identified Moore as a suspect in the unprovoked attack.

He was charged with assault with a deadly weapon, battery causing serious bodily injury, two counts of misdemeanor assault and one count of misdemeanor battery and ordered to stand trial.

During his trial his attorney, Deputy Public Defender Jacque Wilson, showed that witness descriptions of the suspect differed dramatically.

Of four witnesses, one wrote that he could not describe the attacker, another described the attacker as a black man wearing brown pants, another described a white man wearing shorts and a hoodie, and the fourth described a black man wearing shorts and a hoodie, according to the public defender’s office.

Defense attorneys said the four witnesses were allowed to discuss the attack and changed their descriptions, agreeing that the suspect was a black man wearing green shorts.

They then positively identified Moore as the attacker.

The public defender’s office made their case with expert testimony about how memories can be altered by discussing the events and the opinions of other people can become more believable with time, even if it contradicts their initial impressions.

“Eyewitness testimony is notoriously unreliable and memory is easily shaped,” Wilson said in a statement today.

After three days of deliberations, a jury acquitted Moore of all charges in the attack. He faced up to nine years in prison.

“Eyewitness identification may seem compelling but research has shown it is inherently frail,” Public Defender Jeff Adachi said. “It is imperative that witnesses are prevented from comparing notes as they did in Mr. Moore’s case.”

Scott Morris, Bay City News

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