News & Media
Protesters call for justice for Powhatan man stabbed in the head.
Updated: Jun 17, 2019
By Laura McFarland News Editor Apr 7, 2017
POWHATAN – Almost a year after Norris Goode Jr. survived a fight with two men that ended with a blade broken off in his brain, the Powhatan native walked through the Village area surrounded by family and supporters in a peaceful protest to say justice had not been done in his case.
About 45 people made the half-mile walk on the morning of Friday, April 7, from Hollywood Baptist Church to the Powhatan County Courthouse, where they then gathered to hold a press conference.
The purpose of the walk and speeches given on the courthouse lawn was to protest the acquittal of Jesse Ray Moore, 25, of Jetersville on Wednesday, March 15, in Powhatan County Circuit Court.
Moore and his brother Jacob Moore, 22, of Powhatan, were both charged with aggravated malicious wounding in connection to the fight with Goode, but Jacob Moore testified against his older brother, who was subsequently found not guilty. Jacob Moore’s trial has been continued to Monday, June 5.
The protest was not aimed at the Powhatan County Sheriff’s Office, which handled the investigation, or the Powhatan County Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office, which proceeded with the prosecution. The protesters’ complaint was against Circuit Court Judge Paul W. Cella, who found Jesse Moore not guilty following the bench trial.
Norris Jr., who turns 22 today, April 12, said in an interview the day after the verdict was handed down that he believes Cella is a racist. During his speech on April 7, he said that “the judge found opportunities to smirk as we presented the case and even made inappropriate jokes to the attorney to make light of the evidence and even discredit it.”
Norris Jr. said he had trusted the county and its justice system to bring “justice to one of its own citizens, regardless of race. I did not want this to be a racial issue. … I was taught not to see color but rather the content of one’s character.”
However, he talked about evidence brought in the prosecution’s case that he felt Cella undervalued or dismissed to find in favor of the white defendant.
“On March 15 this past month, this case became an issue of discrimination, racial injustice and illegal lynching, where my black life was devalued in the court system compared to the life of a Caucasian man,” he said. “Today I have not given up on the justice system, even though I believe in my county it has failed me.”
As the group of protesters marched down one lane of Old Buckingham Road to the courthouse, they alternately chanted “No justice, no peace” and other sayings calling for justice now.
Several people carried signs saying “New generation, old battle.”
The podium used by the speakers was placed in front of a small patch of privately-owned land on the courthouse green that holds a memorial to fallen confederate soldiers. A small confederate flag often is placed on the mound where the memorial sits, although in the past there have been problems with the flags being stolen.
Phillip Thompson, who is the criminal justice chair for the NAACP Virginia Sate Conference, spoke to the crowd and pointed to the flag as an example of an ongoing problem in the state’s criminal justice system.
“Where you can have a confederate flag in front of a house of justice and expect an African American or minority to walk up in there and get justice. Folks, we can’t have this,” he said.
Several people talked during the gathering on the courthouse lawn, including Norris Jr.’s mother, Rebecca Parker, and father, Norris Goode Sr. The April 7 walk was organized by Norris Sr., who is associate minister at Guildfield Baptist Church, and the church’s pastor, the Rev. Morris Gant Jr., who also spoke.
Tears fell down Norris Jr.’s face as he stood next to his mother and listened to her describe what it was like to have her son come so close to death last year.
Parker talked about the time that followed the first call finding out her son was injured in the arm only to later learn that he needed brain surgery to remove a 2.25-inch knife blade lodged in his head.
“The nature of the injury, from my perspective, went from a wound in the arm to a traumatic brain injury in a matter of seconds. I can’t even put into words how my body reacted to this. I was numb, dumfounded, alarmed, confused, scared, and the list goes on and on,” she said.
Parker described the agony of waiting while her son was in surgery; finally being allowed to see him after surgery only to be shocked at the sight of a respirator breathing for him, and praying desperately that his life would be spared. And after it was, she watched her son slowly try to work his way back to some kind of normalcy.
Norris Jr. had said earlier that he stood in front of the crowd “alive, striving for wholeness and healing” but that he will “forever be altered.”
“I suffer daily from anxiety, PTSD and short-term memory loss. A portion of my brain was extracted and is no longer operable,” he said.
Parker said she was comforted by the fact that her son is alive and she can watch his future unfold.
"But the fight must not stop with my comfort. The outcome of the case is incomprehensible and exasperating to our family and the community, because the evidence was overwhelming,” she said.
Parker said her family has been through enough and came to the march “determined to break these injustice walls down and for our spirits to break out in unity, peace and justice to ensure that no other families endure an outcome of injustice as we have.
“This is how we are coping – by becoming advocates,” she continued. “This is why Norris lived – to speak for those that didn’t live and to identify and break down failing justice systems, especially for the black men all over this land.”
Norris Sr. said that when he came out of the courtroom after Jesse Moore’s acquittal, he was angry at what he felt was Cella’s decision to “look the other way” despite “a mountain of evidence.”
He said he felt all alone, but in seeing the people who participated in the march and stood by his family, he saw that there were people who supported their effort to see justice served.
“There is no way that in 2017 that a person can be stabbed in his brain and a judge looks the other way like it didn’t happen. I have a problem with that,” he said.
When he spoke, Thompson, who also is the president of the Loudoun County branch of the NAACP, said that while double jeopardy prevents Jesse Moore from being charged again with anything related to the altercation with Norris Jr., there are still things people can do.
He urged the crowd to write their elected officials at all levels and ask for a federal investigation into the case and to the Judicial Inquiry and Review Commission to have it review the case and the judge’s actions.
“The Goode family didn’t come to the NAACP. They didn’t raise the race card. They didn’t do any of that. They came out here and expected justice, and they didn’t get justice,” Thompson said.
He also said he hopes Jacob Moore, who has yet to stand trial, will be brought to justice for his part in the fight. He is charged with aggravated malicious wounding, the same crime his brother was acquitted of, a second-degree felony that carries a possible sentencing of 20 years to life in prison if convicted.
Thompson said the nation’s prisons are full of African Americans whose crime was being present when something occurred.
“They were there, so they were prosecuted as part of being there. This individual was there. He was involved in the struggle, two on one. They obviously had an agenda when they showed up to confront Norris, so we hope that justice is served,” Thompson said.
The Rev. Morris Gant Jr. said the people who participated in the march wanted to send a message that they do not understand how the outcome of the trial could have happened. He lauded the work done by the sheriff’s office and commonwealth’s attorney’s office, saying they both did their jobs, but that justice was still not served.
“I believe if we rally together and we make enough noise, that someone will pay attention. They were expecting us to come out and flip chairs, and we came out the same way we are right now, peaceful. But we gathered together and we came back in number,” Gant said.
Gail Hairston spoke for the Powhatan chapter of the NAACP, saying it stands behind the Goode family and will support their efforts to seek justice.
“Over the many years, Powhatan African American citizens and NAACP members have lived peaceably in this community. We’ve raised generations of children, grandchildren and many other relatives. But this situation and verdict has shaken the majority of our families to the core, to the point of fear in many cases,” she said.
James Boyd, president of the Portsmouth County branch of the NAACP, implored all Powhatan County residents, regardless of skin color, “to stand up for what’s right, to stand up for what’s fair.”
Laura McFarland may be reached at Lmcfarland@powhatantoday.com.