Perhaps four months ago, I wrote a couple of pieces in response to Episode Six of the Netflix series, The Confession Tapes. I wasn’t entirely prepossessed by these documentaries on extorted, distorted, or abused confessions. Oh, I was outraged, like everyone else, at how two college boys were manipulated in Canadian sting (illegal on this side of the border) into admitting that they had brutally bludgeoned to death the family of the younger lad… but then, I also didn’t understand how both could have been left utterly without adult supervision. The black D.C. teenagers convicted of gang-raping and murdering an old woman simply played one-by-one into the suggestions of the police interrogators; that story repeats itself almost every day, for reasons that the blanket “racism” explanation obscures more than elucidates. Then there was the bizarre case of the father whose foot twitched on the gas pedal: he was able to extricate himself and his wife from the car as it sank into a river, but his three children went down. As a father myself, I couldn’t understand caring about life as much as this man does after having lost all my children through some klutzy accident. The fellow was not simpatico.
I don’t know why the Buddy Woodall case nagged at me as had none of the others. They all bothered me, all right… but my “bother” threshold had perhaps been somewhat surpassed, as well. The other cases had left me feeling jaded. It was all just too much… all those dramatized injustices on top of others that Netflix and the Hollywood/Newsroom elite have wanted very much to keep out of the news. I sensed that I had been watching our “justice” system melt down for a long time. I had watched it send soldiers away for twenty years because they defended themselves in an Afghan wasteland or snapped a shot of a submarine to share with the kids… watched it export thousands of deadly weapons to Mexican cartels in a covert bid to subvert the Second Amendment… watched officers of that system destroy subpoenaed evidence with bleach and hammer even as their cronies were writing up a full exoneration… watched a dedicated cop with a spotless record be jailed for life because a feminist district attorney found him too masculine… watched a distinguished general take a plea after being “stung” (yes, those operations are supposed to be illegal) by the goons of a Special Counsel who promised to target his son if he resisted…. I’m getting sick all over again just in reviving the memory of a few cases from the past six or eight years.
Our justice system is crap. I don’t trust it any more. I just want to grow walnuts, pecans, sweet potatoes, and beans on my twenty-five acres. Screw the system. The republic is collapsing in the acid byproduct of overheated brains reared on iPhones, weed, kinky sex, and long conversations with “comfort” animals. Screw it all, and stay off my land. “Keep out: dangerous old white guy here.”
So what made Buddy Woodall any different? To this day, I don’t really know. He wasn’t a spoiled frat boy, nor was he a black kid from the inner city. Either of those environments is as far from me as the other, and I feel powerless in both. It is that feeling of powerlessness, perhaps, that makes one morose and defensive. Buddy’s world, however, was not so very far from mine, either geographically or demographically. And I didn’t detect the presence of pompous, virtue-signaling political theatrics in his prosecution (as in the West Coast tale of the two college students) or a media-fed rush to clear a sensationally lurid case (as in the D.C.P.D.’s ramrodding of several black youths through the system). Nobody involved in the Woodall case seemed to be particularly malevolent. There was just too much carelessness—too much laziness.
Laziness: Tocqueville noticed almost two hundred years ago that it is a distinguishing characteristic of us Southerners. The climate is somewhat responsible, no doubt (for every Southerner did not have a slave, contrary to an assertion made in one of Tocqueville’s many rhetorical flourishes: not one in ten owned a slave). So Buddy Woodall serves three life sentences because… because likeable but lazy detectives didn’t follow leads, and because a probably quite likeable but plainly lazy jury didn’t ponder the evidence put before it. Everybody just dozed off. Yeah. A friend of mine back in Texas once lost his business because the judge dozed off during the critical portion of the testimony. It happens a lot down here.
I wanted to see if other people of approximately my socio-economic, political, and religious profile would react to this case as I had… and so I assembled a kind of panel (whose exchanges required much editing, just because all of us passed long days devoted to other pursuits). You can see the result of this nearly three-month experiment at Amazon. The e-book is titled, Anatomy of a Murder Trial: A Citizen Autopsy of Buddy Woodall’s Conviction for “The Labor Day Murders”. I hope my sometimes intrusive engineering produced a fairly readable text. I’m far too close to it to say if the thirty-two chapters of analyzing trial transcripts are riveting or suffocating. I only hope, like Hippocrates, I have done no harm in my groping efforts to do a little good.
I’ll leave off by advancing this remark, which reprises one I made in this space perhaps a quarter-year ago. One of my respondents expressed his surprise that the prosecution seems to model leftist rhetorical tactics: specifically, that it employs “moral equivalency” (e.g., “You say our opening remarks alleged facts never offered in evidence. Hypocrite! Why, you also say that the defendant was sweated by interrogators for half a day!” You’d have to be there… but the “facts” at issue were not remotely proved, whereas the period of psychological pressure was arranged by the interrogators themselves to extend beyond the tight room at the station.) This recalled to me a remark I’d made about how courtroom dramas on TV have shifted from the defense attorney’s to the prosecutor’s table. It’s true. In the Fifties, Hamilton Burger represented Eisenhower America: hardworking, decent, upright, gray-flannel-suited… and also apt to stifle creativity or discount anomaly. Perry Mason’s clients were innocent but slightly off-beat—society’s free spirits or ne’er-do-well’s who were in the docks for straying from the Standard Deviation. Perry was the guardian of liberalism, that beloved American creed that licenses the individual to go his own way.
Now the political Left occupies the other side of the room: it is—or would be—the new orthodoxy. All must condone gay marriage, late-term abortion, gun bans, ungendered pronouns, Sharia communities, hatred of white privilege, and anti-hate speech codes. All must wear the gray flannel suit. Though all may not think in the prescribed manner, they must speak and behave according to prescription. Liberalism is dead. The foolish, tardy Right hasn’t even abandoned the well-worn habit of defaming the word, although defense of the liberal is precisely where the conservative should be pitching his battle. Profiting from this fatal confusion of his adversary, the leftist progressive proceeds to pound society into clones with the force of SWAT teams and stiff prison terms that the system has placed in his fist.
I don’t say that Buddy Woodall is some lovable, misunderstood beatnik: I say this, however, to my brethren on the Right in the aftermath of Buddy’s conviction. Do not support police activities unconditionally just because the kneeling at NFL games and the wicked caricature of honest cops patrolling risky neighborhoods outrages you. Police are but human beings, like you and me, and they are also minions toiling under the authority of a complex hierarchy. If ordered one day to break down your door or my door and search our house for guns or porn or books about Nazism or liter-bottles of Coke or plastic straws or a garden glove that has dried in the “okay” sign, most of them will execute the order. We need to protect the human being within the uniform, lest the uniform compel him to discard his humanity.
Don’t let these witless lines in the shifting sand blind you to the immutable presence of abstract moral issues.