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Juvenile judge returns from military mission

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Until Marion Superior Judge Marilyn Moores stepped away from the bench and left the United States, the juvenile judge didn’t truly know how much she appreciates this country’s legal system.

It took a year in Afghanistan as part of a special military mission to teach her that lesson. That insight came through teaching Afghans how to put an agricultural infrastructure in place, helping create a public defense system for that country and strengthening the role women lawyers have in shaping that society for the future.

moores-15col.jpg During her military mission to the Khost province in eastern Afghanistan, Marion Superior Judge Marilyn Moores visited a women’s Shura and comforted a little girl with Down syndrome. The judge said it was important to the Afghan women to see how much the U.S. military loved and cared for their children. (Submitted photo)

A 26-year veteran in the Indiana Army National Guard, Moores returned stateside after an 11-month mission that spanned Sept. 2010 to August 2011. Now, while glad to be home and back in the courtroom, she can’t wait for the chance to return to Afghanistan.

“It’s a bigger transition than I thought it would be, because it’s not just about combat and peace – it’s about people,” she said, sitting in her office shirtly after resuming her judicial duties Nov. 14. “The experience was amazing and everything happening there is so important. It really makes you appreciate the rule of law and the fair and balanced judicial system we have here.”

The trip overseas, her first military assignment outside the U.S., was the third of five agribusiness-focused missions aimed at redeveloping the country’s agricultural infrastructure. She and her 10-person team were stationed in the Khost province, a mountainous region located in eastern Afghanistan near the Pakistan border. The task is to teach Afghans about crop production, reforesting and animal husbandry along with developing a 4-H program.

While her military and legal backgrounds set the stage for this mission, the judge’s personal life offered the rest of what she needed in experience on the agricultural front. Moores has expertise in some of the agricultural issues she helped teach in Afghanistan. She and her husband live in a horsing community in southeast Marion County and they’ve raised and maintained several horses through the years. That knowledge was a key to her mission in Afghanistan, Moores said.

The mission’s agricultural and farming focus included book learning and hands-on activity, such as teaching the locals how to graft fruit trees and plant orchards, maintain greenhouses, utilize the local streams and terrain, and grow and store protein.

For example, eggs are viewed as “treasures” in that area because the native population – women particularly – don’t eat enough protein, Moores said. Electricity and cold-storage isn’t widely available, so any meat and protein that’s cultivated doesn’t last.

Moores participated in a project that is helping to establish what’s called the Future Farmers of Afghanistan, modeled after the U.S. program known as the Future Farmers of America. That program is being implemented around Afghanistan and teaches high school students how to make solar food dehydrators, which are used to remove moisture from food to aid in preservation. Those can be built in about four hours, Moores said.

“We not only trying to wrap up a war, we’re rebuilding a nation,” she said.

On the legal front, Moores said two of the most important projects she participated in during her mission involved helping to establish a public system and encouraging female lawyers to advocate about women’s rights.

One initiative brings Afghan women attorneys from another province to talk with the Khost women about their rights – issues such as their right to marry if younger than 16 and how the dowry price belongs to the woman, not her family. Those issues are key economic influences and Moores said that educating the population on those matters can help make women more a part of that country’s future.

As far as attorney representation, Moores explained that with constant regime changes each decade, the Afghan people who are middle aged or older have come to expect a system of bribery and corruption in their justice system. The litigants there don’t want a public defender even if one might be appointed, she said, because they see that as just another person they’d have to pay.

“It’s just starting to tip,” Moores said about the Afghan legal infrastructure. “But it’s about stability, showing them that it will still be there and work once we leave.”

Moores said the experience changed her life, and gave her a new appreciation for what the U.S. system is based on.

“We’re so inappreciative of what we have here. Our court deals with some of the poorest people in the county, but we just don’t know what it’s like to really be living in poverty,” she said. “I might need a slideshow in court of what real poverty looks like.”

moores03-15col.jpg Marion Superior Judge Marilyn Moores took part in a military agribusiness mission to Afghanistan between September 2010 and August 2011. She returned to the juvenile court bench on Nov. 14. (IBJ Photo/ Perry Reichanadter)

Being away from the court that she’s presided over since 2005 wasn’t easy, she said. Magistrate Judge Gary Chavers presided in her absence and did everything from keeping court committee meetings going to maintaining a running list of new caselaw that came down while Moores was gone.

“I never had to worry about what was going on here while I was away,” she said. “It’s like they didn’t even miss me at all.”

The judge’s transition back to the American legal community resonates for many judges and attorneys who have returned to their civilian legal responsibilities.

In Morgan County, chief deputy prosecutor Bob Cline, who served in the first agribusiness mission in the same region as Moores, said it took him about a year to fully settle into his civil legal role again and even want to do jury trials again. He recalled walking the scene of a school shooting in Martinsville and having Afghanistan images come to mind as he saw the blood and bandages at the school.

“I’m glad I went, because it made me more appreciative of the rule of law. I’ve been a law abiding and supporting guy for a long time, but once you see a country that doesn’t respect it, you’re more grateful.”

Indiana Justice Steven David echoed those sentiments, and said he had similar experiences during the two times he was called to service at both Fort Gordon in Georgia and then for 20-months representing Guantanamo Bay detainees. He said the emotional and physical challenges of the service itself are difficult on a personal level, but so is the concern about making sure one’s court continues operating efficiently without problems.

“You just want to make sure there’s a smooth process for the lawyers and litigants, and that everything is taken care of while you’re gone and then when you come back,” he said. “Leaving is always harder, but coming back is a struggle, too.”

Moores said she wants to go back in order to continue the work she saw first-hand. Her willingness to return overseas isn’t something she expected before leaving the U.S. When she found out about her assignment and started preparing for the trip in 2009, she thought this would be her swan song for her long military career.

She was a lieutenant colonel at the time, but in January she received a promotion to colonel – a designation that she thinks could open the door for a return to Afghanistan.

“I feel very unresolved and there’s so much more to do there,” Moores said. “I believe in what we’re doing there and I truly believe in the Afghan people, and I want them to succeed so badly.”•

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  1. Am I the only one who sees that the City is essentially giving away the MSA site AND giving millions to build new buildings on the site when this site would be the perfect place for the Justice Complex? Across from City-County, check; keeping it centrally located, check, etc. It's my understanding that the GM site must be purchased by the City from Motors Liquidation Company. STOP WASTING WHAT WE ALREADY HAVE AND OUR TAX DOLLARS! The Ballard Administration has not been known for it's common sense...never voted for him and never will!

  2. This guy sounds like the classic molester/manipulator.

  3. Louis D. Brandeis was born in 1856. At 9 years of age it would have been 1865. The Brandeis family did not own slaves. My source Louis D. Brandeis: A Life, by Melvin L. Urofsky.

  4. My name is Matthew Lucas Major, I recently went through a jury trial in Bloomington , In. It was the week of Feb 19-21. Although I have been incarcerated since August 5, 2014. The reason I 'am writing to you sir is on the 21 of February the jury came in with a very excessive and wrongful verdict of guilty on 6 child molesting charges against my daughter who was 9 at the time I was accused. I also had 2 other Felonies one of Intimidation and 1 of Sexual Vicarious Gratification. Judge Marc Kellam on the second day of trial gave me a not guilty on those 2 felonies. The jury was sent out during that time and when brought back Judge Kellam told them to not concern themselves with the 2 Felonies that he ruled on them. They were told to not let evidence they had already heard influence there verdicts. I never in my life touched any child sexually and definitely not with my own daughter. When I was arrested Detective Shawn Karr told me I would be convicted guilty just on my daughters word even without evidence. That's just what happened. my public defender did me so wrong he never once proved to the court and jury all the lies the child told, and Jeremy Noel my public defender could of proven the lies easily. The stories in Serenity's depositions and Forensic interview changed and were not consistent as Prosecutor Darcie Fawcett claimed they were. Yet my attorney never mentioned that. The facts that the child accused me of full penetration in her vagina and rectum was proven lies. Doctor Roberta Hibbard of Riley hospital in Indianapolis confirmed Serenity's hymen intact, no scars, no tearing, no signs of rape to her. Yet my attorney didn't use that knowledge . the DNA was all in my favor. I tell you I will spend my entire life in prison going through rape and beatings etc. even Judge Kellam abused his authority by telling the jurors to listen and believe what the prosecutors side in evidence like my daughters testimony. In one interview with the detectives my daughter got flustered with her mom and said on camera " I'm saying what you told me to mom"!! Yet Mr. Noel said nor did anything to even resemble a defense attorney. Judge Kellam allowed edited version of a taped conversation between the child and her mother. Also Judge Kellam allowed the Prosecutor too bring in to my case a knife found under my seat, the knife wasn't part of my case. She was allowed by my attorney and the judge to put a huge picture of it on the screen and huge picture of my naked privates in a full courtroom and open court. Ms. Fawcett says to jury see how easy Mr. Major could reach the knife and cut his Childs throat. Even though I had no weapons charge against these cases. This gave the jurors prejudice thought against me thinking I threatened her with that knife and how scared she would of been knowing i could get it and kill her. On my sentencing court March 19, 2014 my public defender told Judge Kellam he wish to resign from being my attorney and wished for the court to give me outside council to file a error to trial or appeal. We were denied. Now after openly knowing my public defender don't want to represent me he has to. Well when as parents we make our kids clean a room when they really don't wish to, well the child will but don't mean she will do a good job, that's where I'm at with Mr. Noel. please dont ignore mine and my families pleas for your help . we have all the legal proof you could need to prove Im innocent. Please dont make my spend years in prison innocent when you can fix this wrong. Im not saying Im a perfect man or that I was a perfect dad to my 2 children none of us are. Ive made some bad choices in life and I paid for them. But I didnt ever touch or rape my daughter . I love my children with all my heart. And now through needing attention and a ex-wife who told my granny several times she wish she could put me in prison to get me out of their lives. Well my ex finally accomplished her goal. Sad part is she is destroying our daughter with all this horrific lies and things she taught my daughter to say. My daughter will need therapist to ever hope for a chance of a normal life after what she had done to her by her mom and their side of the family. My daughter told everyone even on stand she had a dream months before i supposedly molested her in this dream I was molesting her and when I finally did it matched her dream perfectly. She admitted to watching movies about little girls being molested and watching U-Tube videos about child molesting all before it happened supposedly to her. Doesn't that sound very unusual that a non molested 9 yr old would need to know so much about being molested? The only reason I could think a 9 year old would need so much information is to be prepared to know what to say and be able to say how it felt what took place etc.. So when questioned by authorities she would be prepared. And there again sir if a parent is pre grooming a 9 year old child she would need intimate details . Like telling her daughter about a couple moles on my private area. The child admitted to sneaking my cell and looking many many times at nudes of me and my girlfriend even one where my penis was entering my girlfriends vagina. In that picture my moles are obvious. Yet when prosecutor showed everyone in court my privates and pictures of the moles she said the only way the child would know about them is if she saw them for herself. My attorney once again said nothing about the pictures my child saw. Or could a ex-wife be able to describe my moles to help her case against getting rid of me? I beg you help me. This is my very existence. Ive lost everything , a good job, a wonderful girlfriend, my freedom, but worse thing Ive lost is my children. They were my reason to get up every morning and strive to be better. The wonderful bond I had with my Serenity is gone. After this I would be afraid to even hug her for fear of what next can they do to me. I'm not afraid to tell you I sit here in this cell and try to hold back my tears. Everyone knows you cant show weakness in prison. My life has already been threatened here at Wabash Valley Prison. After only 3 days of arrival. I was tricked into signing a waiver now Im in G Block General Population with 6 child molesting felony charges. Mrs. Hart as a 18 year old I almost died hooked to machines in hospital almost 1 month and now I know that fear was childish compared to this . I cant help but put emotions in this, after all Mrs. Hart Im human and God help Me I never been more afraid in my life. I didnt hurt my little girl I didnt touch her sexually. As much as it shreds me and fills my mind what Im facing I worry more about my mom and granny because of their great love for me mam they are suffering so deeply. I aint done this things but my loved ones suffering right along beside me and If you take my case you will be in essence freeing them also. I sent momma this letter and asked her to email it to you. I'm scared I have been done so unjustly by our legal system and I need you to fix this and give me freedom. I ask you please don't just ignore my pleas. Here in America its nice to be able to trust our legal justice system, well they destroyed my and my loved ones trust in our justice system . And I'm trusting in You !!! My entire family is suffering this nightmare with me. My 77 year old granny had a stroke and isn't doing so well. My single mother that raised 3 kids alone is dying from Lupus and since my arrest has stayed so sick and weary. Our lives torn to peices by a government I was taught I could trust in. my momma has tried so many innocent project and wrongfully accused and cant get anywhere. please please help me. A quote from the late Nelson Mandela: To be free is not merely to cast off ones chains, But to live in a way that respects and enhances The Freedom Of Others. I have Faith in you and your clinic to cast my chains off and give me freedom I do deserve as a wrongfully accused Man, son, brother, father, friend. Matthew Major DOC# 246179 Cause # : 53c02-1308-FA-000779 God Bless you. Please contact me with your decision so I know you made a life changing decision for me , just please at least write me so I know you care enough about your citizens to respond to cries for your help. You can speak openly with my mother Charlotte Spain (828) 476-0406: 71 Lakeview Dr. Canton, NC 28716 Thank You Matthew Major I know yall get thousands of request and inmates claiming innocence, and each person who are innocent deserve to have organizations like yours willing to fight for them and I give yall so much Thanks and I thank God everyday yall are out there caring enough to help free the innocents. Since discovering firsthand how easily lives and families can be destroyed by Poor Defense attorneys not doing their job . And Prosecutors allowed to do as they please in court

  5. Frankly, it is tragic that you are even considering going to an expensive, unaccredited "law school." It is extremely difficult to get a job with a degree from a real school. If you are going to make the investment of time, money, and tears into law school, it should not be to a place that won't actually enable you to practice law when you graduate.

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