Like so many death row inmates, Patrick Moody has lots of horror stories from his youth. Moody’s 11 years on Central Prison’s death row sound like a step up from the years he spent in his own home at the hands of abusive parents.
Moody, who was sentenced to die for the 1994 murder of Donnie Robbins, is scheduled to be executed by injection on Friday, March 17, at 2 a.m.
“I was abused as a child,” Moody said during a Feb. 28 prison interview. “My dad hated kids. My mom hated kids. My parents got divorced when I was 4 years old. My stepmother didn’t care nothing about me. All she cared about was her kids. They got everything; I got nothing. I had to eat in a separate room than her kids ate.
“They got steak; I got soup. Her kids were allowed having friends; I wasn’t. Her kids got allowance; I didn’t. Her kids didn’t have to do no chores; I did everything. I was a slave in my own home.
“If I had to cut that grass it took me about 45 minutes to cut the front grass and an hour and a half to cut the back grass, and if I was one-second late I got an ass whooping like you wouldn’t believe.
“I got beat with boards, wrenches, tools, belts, two-by-fours. I got shot. I got hit by the truck. No, it wasn’t too friendly in our home. They had parties; I was locked in a room. They’d go on vacation; I would have to stay with a family member because I wasn’t allowed to go.”
Moody, 39, said his father had a short fuse. “Little things would tick him off,” he said.
On Tuesday, Moody’s lawyers, Charlotte Blake and Don Willey, told Moody’s story to Gov. Mike Easley in hopes the former N.C. attorney general will commute Moody’s sentence to life in prison without parole.
Moody stopped his murder trial to plead guilty to the Sept. 16, 1994, murder of Robbins in Thomasville. Moody was having an affair with Robbins’ wife, Wanda, who persuaded Moody to shoot her husband after claiming that Donnie Robbins was abusing her. Blake, Moody’s attorney, said Wanda Robbins even painted fake bruises on her body and tore her clothes to convince Moody she was being abused.
With an IQ that was tested from the 60s to 81 at his trial, Moody was easily taken in by Wanda Robbins, and Moody’s story is “true and compelling,” Blake says. Wanda Robbins was the “mastermind” of the crime who was able to enter a guilty plea and receive a life sentence, she says, and before recruiting Moody, Robbins had tried to get others to kill her husband.
“She devised all sorts of schemes to kill her husband,” Blake says. “It was going to happen, and she found an unwitting person–she found Patrick, and because of his particular upbringing and his limited skills, she was able to convince him to do it. So we do have very disparate punishment as far as relative culpability.
“This isn’t a situation where you had a jury hear both cases and give her life and give him death. She was able to enter a plea for a life sentence.”
Blake says Moody spent six months in Central Prison before being visited by his lawyer. A second lawyer didn’t meet with Moody until less than a month before trial.
Moody’s lawyers failed to adequately explain the critical importance of preparing mitigation evidence for the sentencing phase of the case, Blake says. Moody asked his trial lawyers to keep his family out of it, a request the lawyers should have disregarded in the effort to save their client’s life.
“Mitigation evidence is extraordinarily important,” Blake said. “You have to pursue that. There are ABA [American Bar Association] standards on what lawyers do in capital trials that require you to pursue potential mitigating evidence regardless of the client’s wishes, especially when you haven’t explained it to them.”
Says Moody: “My lawyers really didn’t do nothing for me. They didn’t do nothing for me. Because I wrote ’em letters and I wrote ’em letters and wrote ’em letters.”
The effects of the childhood abuse is not lost on Moody.
“People say you’re just like your parents,” Moody says. “That’s why I never settled down. That’s why I never got a wife. That’s why I never had kids, because I didn’t want to be like my daddy. So I stayed a loner all my life.”
During his 11 years on death row, Moody has made friends. He passes his time playing “Dungeons and Dragons,” watching TV and reading the Bible. He has also taken up drawing and painting. Moody and some other guys on the row use some of their time to produce original birthday and Christmas cards.
“We kick out about maybe 300 or 400 birthday cards, Christmas cards a year,” he says. “You give me a pencil or pen and a piece of paper and I’m good to go. It passes time.”
Moody admits to having some bad days since he received notice in January of his execution date.
“Sometimes you get depressed. Sometimes you don’t,” he says.
He doesn’t like the questions he gets from other guys on the row, such as asking him what he plans to request for his last meal. Moody says he tells them, “I’m trying not to think about it.”
Moody says he is sorry for his crime. “I felt real bad for what I did. I wished it never happened, but it did, and I can’t stop that; can’t change time.”
Moody said he doesn’t see how his execution will makes things right.
“I killed somebody,” Moody says. “I admitted to killing somebody. They say, ‘What you did was wrong, and we’re going to kill you for killing somebody.’ Where’s two wrongs make a right at? It’s wrong to kill, but we’re going to kill you for killing somebody else. Well, if it’s so wrong to kill, what the hell you doing killing me?”
Moody was friends with Alan Gell, who was released from death row after new evidence led to his acquittal at a second trial.
“I know a few other guys that I hang out with, they’re actually innocent of their charges,” Moody said. “Hopefully in the future they will get help.”
If he could meet the governor face-to-face, Moody would say: “I’m sorry. I messed up. We’re all human. We all make mistakes. Two wrongs don’t make a right.”
If his life is spared, Moody also dreams of helping other kids avoid crime.
“I have a plan if I ever do get out,” he says. “I want to go to schools, different schools, and tell these kids the life I went through. And out of say 200 kids, if I change one kid’s life, one kid’s mind, then I know I did something good. If I can help just one, then this world would be a little bit better place.”
Moody said he would tell the kids that “crime don’t pay,” and you reap what you sow.
“I’ve been down that road,” he says. “I know what it’s like. I know how close it is to come to death. I know how close it’s come to being killed legally.”
Blake said she is also going to challenge the state’s method of execution. Death row inmates in others states have claimed lethal injection constitutes cruel and unusual punishment.
Center for Death Penalty Litigation executive director Ken Rose thinks Moody’s lawyers might prevail on this argument. “I think it could go either way,” Rose said.