'Moorish Defense' Slowing Court Cases In Mecklenburg

MECKLENBURG COUNTY, N.C.,None — Mecklenburg County's new district attorney is pushing his prosecutors to take more cases to trial, but Eyewitness News has uncovered a legal defense that's bogging down the system.

Attorney Brad Smith said he sees the Moorish Nation defense often in Mecklenburg County courtrooms.

"Knowing what I know, it's basically a con that these people have been duped into believing," he said.

Under the strategy, a defendant claims that the Moorish Nation is not subject to the laws of the United States. They adopt a new name and claim that crimes committed under their old name don't apply to them.

It's an approach Smith said is ineffective but used often in Mecklenburg County. There are dozens of filings each year. The Mecklenburg County District Attorney's Office said armed robbery suspect Justin Irizarry is using the defense.

"It's frivolous motions that we have to deal with," said Mecklenburg County District Attorney Andrew Murray. "It's interruptions to court and it's just time-consuming when we are dealing with limited court time and resources."

Smith said trial delays can compromise cases, especially if witnesses are prepared to testify.

The Moorish Nation's national chapter said, "Those individuals who are performing those acts are not members of our organization, because our organization is for peace and not destruction. We are a part and parcel of this government."

The District Attorney's Office said defendants who file the Moorish Nation defense are rarely represented by an attorney. Murray said he has never seen a case in which the defense has led to an acquittal.

More Information: The Moroccan-American Treaty of 1787

Previous Stories: July 6, 2011: Mecklenburg Co. DA Wants To Cut Backlog In Murder Cases