James Moore’s 20th bid for parole, after serving more than 57 years in prison, has been denied by the New York State Parole Board.
In 1963, Moore pleaded guilty to the murder of teenager Pamela Moss of Penfield. Now 85 and bedridden in a hospital unit at Coxsackie Correctional Facility south of Albany, Moore is New York’s longest-serving inmate.
As in previous years, Monroe County District Attorney Sandra Doorley sent a petition to state parole authorities opposing Moore’s bid for release. The petition, signed online by 1,238 people, claimed Moore’s release would “place the community at risk” and violate a “bargain” Moore made to spend “the rest of his life in prison” by agreeing to a term of “natural life.”
A recent investigation by the Rochester Beacon questioned the petition’s claim that Moore would be a risk to public safety. Due to bone infections, hip fractures, and kidney ailments, Moore has been confined since 2017 in a prison hospital and can’t move from bed to wheelchair without mechanical or staff assistance. The Beacon article also disputed that Moore had ever agreed to forgo parole. The penal law under which he pleaded guilty provided that “natural life” meant eligibility for parole after a minimum of 40 years, or just over 26 years with good behavior.
Rochester criminal defense lawyer Brian Shiffrin, in reviewing the case, commented: “The petition is simply wrong . . . (and) it is difficult to understand how District Attorney Doorley can be unaware that the very basis of the petition she is circulating is untrue.”
In the article, Doorley defended the petition: “I’m still fighting for justice. I’m still fighting for Pamela Moss. Even though it’s been 56 years, going on 57 years, since she’s been dead, we still have to remember victims. It’s good for the community to be reminded that there are people like Mr. Moore out there, people we’re dealing with every day who are predators, who abuse our children.”
The Beacon this morning reached out to her office for comment on the parole board’s decision action but has not received a response.
In custody, Moore has maintained an exemplary record with almost no behavioral violations. He has completed psychological counseling, earned three college-level degrees, and become a teacher of Buddhist meditation. Before the parole board as well as in a recent memoir, he has acknowledged responsibility for his crime and expressed remorse.
Commenting on the denial of parole, Joyce Smith-Moore, a social worker and prison volunteer to whom Moore has been married for 30 years, wrote in an email: “If there is someone who has proved it is possible for a person to turn their life around and excel—succeeding in a situation that is not conducive to that being possible—it is James Robert Moore.”
Smith-Moore noted that for the two years until his next parole hearing, her husband “will need to remain in the prison hospital due to his health issues.”
Today, by one estimate, while it costs the state about $30,000 a year to house a regular prisoner, the cost to house a geriatric inmate in a prison medical facility may exceed $100,000 annually.
Peter Lovenheim is Rochester Beacon Washington correspondent.