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Murder suspect cites coercion in confession

[02/15/01] The Florence man facing a murder trial next month in the slaying of a companion asked Wednesday that a reported confession not be allowed in evidence.

Vicksburg attorney Eugene Perrier said his client, 23-year-old James Sanders, was coerced into giving the statement on the day of his arrest on charges he killed Paul Moore, who was also 23. Warren County Sheriff Martin Pace testified there was no coercion.

Circuit Judge Isadore Patrick continued the pretrial hearing until Thursday and more testimony was expected.

Moore was shot to death last Feb. 17 and Sanders and his half-brother, Greg Sanders, 17, were arrested three weeks later on March 13, one day after Moore’s body was found off Gowall Road in Warren County.

Authorities have not said what might have happened leading to Moore’s death. Greg Sanders has pleaded guilty as an accessory, has reportedly agreed to testify and was released from jail with a suspended sentence April 21.

James Sanders’ murder and armed robbery trial is set for March 26.

He told Judge Patrick that Pace told him he would not face the death penalty if he gave a statement to authorities.

“He said if I talked now he would make sure I didn’t get the death penalty and I might even get manslaughter,” Sanders said.

Pace testified no promises were made. A voluntary confession can be admitted at trial. If a judge rules a statement was obtained in violation of a defendant’s right against self-incrimination, jurors can’t read it.

James Sanders faces two life sentences if convicted. Although the combination of a murder with an armed robbery creates the possibility of a death sentence, District Attorney Gil Martin opted against asking for an indictment under which execution would be possible.

The half-brothers and Moore lived in the same Vicksburg neighborhood and Moore served as James Sanders’ best man at his wedding two years ago.

Greg Sanders testified in April that he was walking in front of Moore along the rural road when his brother pulled a 9 mm pistol and shot Moore in the head.

As part of the motion, James Sanders also says he was denied an attorney. Records show he waived his right to counsel on three separate occasions the day of his arrest.