The Invasion of the Puppets: BLM and the Last Days of Civil Society

Somebody should perhaps write an addendum to The Screwtape Letters.  My suspicion is that somebody already has, either in the “People’s Republic” of China or in the upper echelons of American academe.

The way that mass consciousness—if one can use those two words together—has been manipulated by the BLM movement (shakedown? insurrection?) is pure Satanic genius.  When I read about the conduct of both Kansas City and Houston players as the anthem opened the NFL’s initial game, I realized what a tight little box had been sealed upon our national psyche.  One team’s fifty stalwarts linked arms and bent knees; the other’s simply refused to take the field.  Now, I couldn’t possibly care less about football at any level.  I despise the game.  As a boy, I knew several kids who were crippled for life while playing high school football, and one who actually died after a year on a respirator.  Suits me fine if we just hand the whole sport off to the feminists. It’s about blindsiding or mobbing your adversary, not going mano a mano face-to-face.

But there are much more important issues involved here that we ignore at our peril.  And, of course, the buffoonery is spreading.  We all know about basketball‘s “woke” transformation, even those of us who couldn’t readily name six NBA teams.  (Yeah, I’ve raised my hand.) Now baseball is crowding in for a piece of the idiot action—idiot on the surface, that is; for the genius is in the Puppeteer’s mind and not in the wooden heads of his Pinocchios.  Several Major League clubs refused to perform in their empty stadiums (all stadiums in COVID America being empty nowadays—that’s part of the behind-the-scenes brilliance) after the shooting of Jacob Blake.  None of these blockheads knew the details of the shooting: “cop shoots black dude…” okay, let’s roll.  The ratiocinative chain went no further than that.

But consider the “meta” of these moron-level associative responses.  Their very fuzziness is part of the mire wherein we have all waded and been trapped.  Exactly what are you protesting, Mighty Casey?  How about you, Slag Bronkowsky—and you, D’Shondrick Hayes?  “Well, it’s the cops.  They’re killing young black kids.”  So… your best way of addressing the social disease underlying these fatalities is to squat on the flag or simply refuse to fulfill your player’s contract?  “Gotta draw attention to the abuse, man.”  Attention you have certainly drawn… but to what?  To the police?  To which police?  “All of ’em, man!”  So let’s suppose that all police are racist executioners disguised in blue.  Doesn’t disrespecting the flag send the signal, rather, that you find the whole nation guilty?  Doesn’t walking out on your job send the signal that you think everything’s a contemptible scam?  “It is!  Everything, just like you said.  And yeah, everyone’s guilty.”  Okay, we’re getting real clarity now.  Gimlet precision.  So it’s not about the cops: it’s about mainstream America and her political system.  “Yeah, that’s right.”  Because all of it—because everyone—is racist.  “Yeah, that’s right.”  So why didn’t you take a knee a long time ago to protest the quarter-of-a-million-plus black babies who are aborted every year?  “Come on, man!  You’re just trying to make this political!”

Wow.  There’s a coherent, resonant message for you.  Every passive spectator out there who doesn’t applaud me because I’m calling his eight-to-five world a load of crap is part of said load.  It’s a world, by the way, that supplied him and other spectators with the means to blow a couple of Franklins on a ticket and watch me play.  Yeah, I’ll play—but first you’ll open up for a scoop of this, cracker, and you’ll swallow!

Result: average Americans—hard-working, practical, common-sensical—are repulsed by all the self-righteous arrogance and logic-hostile bullying.  The ordinary adult, being sane and responsible, grows angry.  He turns his back on sports, which actually darkens his mood (because we do genuinely need some sort of frivolous escape-valve in our routine); and before very long, he may even begin to mutter thoughts only to himself, or at most to a very tight circle of familiars, that people of color are a tremendous annoyance.

Brilliant, I say.  This is a huge accomplishment in the Puppeteer’s bid to subvert society.  For we now have significant rifts opening up in our social fabric; and even better, the strain producing the splits isn’t merely economic or cultural—it’s the beginning stage of true racism.  Not the phony kind, but the real thing.  Well done, Master Screwtape!

Furthermore, the rifts are numerous and running in several directions, as opposed to reflecting a simple black/white antagonism.  Whites who cannot bed down at night without mentally checking some box that confirms their moral superiority rush to endorse anything with “BLM” scrawled along its edge.  It seems to me, honestly, as though their voice is much louder than any football team’s—their need of this bizarre bedtime prayer-of-the-Pharisee more urgent than any black athlete’s of publicizing abuses in racial profiling.  The neo-fascist Antifa draws its most committed footsoldiers from the ranks of the “woke white”.  If BLM didn’t exist, Antifa’s white buccaneers would have to invent it (which, you know, some of them—or their bloody-handed captains—actually did: few of the puppeteers are genetically African).

The presence of anti-white racist whites in the melee ensures that no sane discussion of specific cases or of appropriate generalities can occur.  Any sentence that begins, “But did you realize that Jacob Blake… did you know that George Floyd…” draws immediate artillery fire.  Yours not to question.  Do not dare initiate the observation, “But if so many black kids were not raised without fathers…”.  Oh, don’t you dare!  Shut up!  SHUT UP!  SHUT THE F— UP!”

So now we have at least three phalanxes launching missiles at each other, with the Woke White appearing to be one with the black protest but, increasingly, distanced from it by their own zealous excesses.  I really can’t say how numerous a fourth battle line (or, more properly, defensive line) may be, consisting of people with African DNA who claim the right to open, peaceful discussion; for few human beings have the courage of Candace Owens, Kimberly Klacik, or Allen West.  Most of this happy few (or secret many, let us hope) do their claiming in a whisper, since they see how gaudily the outspoken are crucified.  And the grumbling white mainstream, of course, hasn’t much interest in coming to their rescue, and probably would do so very ineptly if it tried. (I took a lot of flak from the White Right when I tried to publicize Kim Klacik’s campaign with my little trumpet last spring.)

Because of unique (and accidental?) circumstances, our ongoing social fragmentation is turbocharged in 2020.  Most of us are already on the verge of suicide or homicide thanks to COVID lockdown.  When you cook up a potful of people who have long since been denied their constitutional right to associate freely with fellow citizens, season it with paranoia about a “pandemic” whose fatalities approximate the curve of a bad flu year, and finally stir in racial hatred and armed bullying (with faces all duly masked)… well, old Screwtape outdid himself this time.  Hell is boiling over into Middle Earth.

For the record, I fully grasp that young black males are profiled by police with excessive readiness.  While it’s true that this demographic is disproportionately involved in certain crimes (such as possession of prohibited substances or of unlicensed firearms), the law requires probable cause to pry into a person’s private space… and “driving while black” is not probable cause.  How many white parents would get the call that their college student has been incarcerated on drug charges if a single stop-and-search protocol were applied with equal rigor across the board?  Yes, I understand.

But—as the words run in some Rap song that I recall from my son’s high school days—“dat ain’t dis, and dis ain’t dat.”  The BLM frenzy is in fact drawing effective attention away from issues which might be ameliorated.  A simple “stop profiling” would have done the trick; and I don’t know if kneeling for the anthem would remain the best delivery system, but at least it would not involve the open disrespect of—say—turning the back.  So kneel, if you like.  People of all creeds, classes, and colors could chime in, as well, without all the virtue-miming.  Attorneys like Kathleen Zellner have made us aware that repeat petty offenders or “poor white trash” can get railroaded all the way to Death Row by detectives who cut corners.  Buddy Woodall is serving life here in Georgia for a double murder because cops exploited his insomnia and despair to wring a confession from him in the absence of solid material evidence.  Buddy is white… but he’s also a “nobody”.  He grew up on a country lane lined with trailer homes.  (And the locals, by the way, still will not discuss the case two decades later: too many figures that once wore badges are implicated in it.)

Patsy Ramsay, in contrast, was definitely somebody.  She was beautiful (Miss Virginia at age 20), married to a wealthy Atlanta businessman, and—yes—Caucasian all the way.  She passed the final twenty years of her life fighting, in court and before the public eye, the perception—shamelessly encouraged by Boulder, Colorado, detectives—that she had a hand in murdering her young daughter, JonBenét.  One can scarcely imagine a more miserable existence: to know that your child died a violent death, to know that the crime occurred in your house as you slept, and to know that the killer is living free as the police push and squeeze to make the evidence point to you… all because your profile fits their boilerplate culprit for a domestic homicide.  Who’s taking a knee for Patsy?

What misery!  In a humane society, we would recognize that injustice is a thread binding us all together; but as subversive puppeteers try to rip our society apart, we are asked—no, required—to believe that only one race suffers.  It’s insulting to the intelligence—and, by the way, demeaning to the race at issue, as if its members were condemned deterministically to slings and arrows and needed special protection.  A black friend of mine once protested, during our discussion of my book Key to a Cold City, “But Dr. Harris… black ballplayers in Jackie Robinson’s day never ceased being black.  Out of uniform, walking into a restaurant or hotel, they were still black.  A white player might get dumped on by the fans or the press—but put him in street clothes, and he can go anywhere he wants.”  That’s true… and so is this.  It’s a remark that Larry Doby made about Yogi Berra, and I wish I’d found it in time for inclusion in the book.  “… I repeated a few of those jokes myself [about Yogi’s being a dope, a caveman, etc.].  And it never once occurred to me in those early years that I was hurting Yogi’s feelings.  The black guys around the league, there weren’t many of us, but when we would get together and talk, we knew we were all going through something together.  That made the abuse a little easier to take.  Now that I’m older, I wonder who helped Yogi take all that abuse” (Allen Barra, Yogi Berra, Eternal Yankee, pp. 62-63 [2009]).

We all have our struggles.  Everyone’s travail is unique in some way, yet all of us are alike in having to bear heavy burdens.  If we forget that, then we will become incapable of true compassion or true justice.  We will be animals that belch words, lots of words, without any regard for or suspicion of their meaning. I believe we’re already there.

P.S. In keeping with my bid to offer certain of my ebooks free at regular intervals, I’ve created a promotion for two of my fictional works about academe in the late twentieth century. Worse By Seven is a psychological novel about a professor who surrenders to despair amid the nihilism and debauchery that swamp him on an elite campus… but who at last finds a truth greater than this world’s. Ivory Gutter Shining Bright is a large collection of short stories, most of them wry or burlesque, some a little fantastical, about the pompous insanity that prevails in our towers of learning. Both ebooks may be downloaded free through this Tuesday (September 22).

Who Must Police the Police? Concerned Citizens

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.

Criminal Investigation: Too Much Blueprint and Too Few Bricks? (Part II)

I would like to have more information about the forensic technique of identifying guns through imprints left upon spent shells (primarily by the firing pin).  I would like to know if that science had achieved a high degree of reliability in the early twenty-first century.  Of course, in the case of Buddy Woodall, we’re not talking about an experiment at MIT.  Glynn County, Georgia, is among the poorest in the state.  Even if the county lab possessed the latest technology in 2000, did it have technicians schooled in the latest skills?

The issue of shell casings being found on the property of Buddy’s parents that matched those recovered at the scene of a double homicide remains crucial to me.  The Netflix serial Confession Tapes brushed hurriedly past it in order to focus upon the defendant’s very dubious admission of guilt—and I will anticipate myself by noting here that the weapon Woodall confessed to firing could not possibly have produced the casings found.  This is just one in a string of “admissions” that must be false, and which the prosecution never tried to present as other than false while still insisting that Woodall had truly confessed. Yet whatever Netflix or the State of Georgia wished to foreground about the evidence, the shell casings remain the point most disturbing to me.

I am much predisposed in Buddy’s favor, however, by the State’s Confirmation of Conviction (# S13A1564) published online at https://caselaw.findlaw.com/ga-supreme-court/1655783.html.  Ironic, isn’t it, that a document tending to exonerate Buddy Woodall would be the work product of several judges writing to reaffirm that he had been correctly condemned! Here’s how it reads in regard to the murder weapon:

The police collected physical evidence which revealed Mr. Van Allen was shot three times [I wrote last time that he had been shot twice: I presume that I was wrong] with a .25 Lorcin pistol. The evidence also showed that a pearl-handled .25 Lorcin pistol and two other guns had been stolen from appellant’s father’s safe in May 2000. An acquaintance of appellant testified that sometime before the murders, he saw appellant with a .25 pearl-handled pistol and a 9mm Ruger. The medical examiner testified two of the three gunshots were fatal as to Mr. Van Allen—one to his head and another that went through his chest piercing his lungs and heart. The gunshot to Mr. Van Allen’s head was made from a distance of 16 to 18 inches because there was gun powder residue at the site of the entrance wound. Mr. Lynn died due to a gunshot to back of the head. Authorities were unable to recover the bullet or shell casing which would have revealed the caliber of the weapon used to inflict Mr. Lynn’s injury. The lead investigator on the case testified he had a discussion with the medical examiner wherein the medical examiner opined that Mr. Lynn was shot with a .38 caliber weapon; however, the medical examiner testified at trial that he could not determine what caliber weapon was used against Mr. Lynn. Still, police generally believed appellant and his co-defendant were both shooters, although appellant told police his co-defendant shot both victims.

Isn’t this interesting?  The notion that two guns and two shooters were involved is strongly suggested, yet an obligingly hesitant coroner was unwilling to exclude the .25 from Lynn’s murder by the time of trial. Buddy Woodall received life sentences for the commission of both murders, as if he were the sole culprit on the scene.

And just to thicken the plot yet further, it turns out the weapon used in Van Allen’s murder, at least, had indeed been stolen from the gun safe of Buddy’s father several months earlier!  Now, is the implication that Woodall was nicking his own dad’s possessions as well as gunning down other close relations?  This is an emerging portrait of a young psychotic—an incurable “bad boy”—which nothing in the defendant’s life appears to justify. Why would Buddy not simply have borrowed the gun; or if he knew he were going to use it in a robbery/murder three months later (to earn a few hundred bucks), why wouldn’t he snitch a weapon not traceable to his kinfolk? For that matter, if he needed a few c-notes that badly at that time, why not simply pawn the three guns that he had just stolen?

As for the acquaintance who testified to having seen Buddy with a pearl-handled pistol “sometime before the murders”, the official statement above is helpful neither in specifying the time nor the acquaintance. Woodall’s brother-in-law, David Wimberly, had volunteered a few items of testimony used by the prosecution; was this one of those? “Davy” might have borne an understandable grudge against Buddy for being implicated in the murders (accused of both, actually) by the “confession”. Even so, simply admitting to having seen a pearl-handled pistol—they’re not rare—hardly even reaches the threshold of circumstantial relevance.

The documentary records the claim of one witness that Woodall had spoken to him about ambushing a hypothetical victim in an out-of-the-way place. Such is the fabric of which the state’s case is woven: young men casually discussing over a beer how to murder someone, maybe after watching an episode of Forensic Files (my son’s favorite show). Let us grant, as well, that harvesting a statement of this sort from a lad on probation for a drug or assault conviction would be as easy as getting a lab rat to eat sugar. It happens all the time. A fellow being leaned on gently under such conditions would remember whatever little tidbit the detective needed. Anything to help law enforcement!

Being the person originally—and without compulsion—identified by Buddy as having borrowed the family’s blue car on the fateful day (more of that later), Wimberly does raise certain questions.  I know nothing whatever about David Wimberly, however, except what is alleged in legal documents.  These are often so far from dispelling the cloud of witness that they churn out more fog at critical points.  For instance, the judges who compiled the Confirmation of Conviction, in one of their more transparent statements, actually position the fatal wound to Lavelle Lynn 180 degrees from its true point of entry: the Netflix documentary made graphically clear (and I do mean graphically) that the bullet struck Lynn between the eyes, not in the back of the head. A similar document online identifies Lavelle Lynn as the uncle of Woodall’s wife. I find such confusion very odd, as someone who doesn’t normally read in the genre.  Is such slipshod assembly of the basic facts where a man’s life hangs in the balance really typically of how our system works?

The fate of the $490 in victim Lavelle Lynn’s wallet (stated on camera as $480 by Lynn’s daughter) poses another series of questions that I, as a juror, would have wanted answered—and perhaps the prosecution offered a more detailed account than the documentary’s producers had time to relate.  Still… what happened to the cash?  The published text of the Confirmation simply reads as follows:

The record also showed that when Mr. Lynn’s body was discovered, his wallet was missing from his person;3but the wallet was recovered several months later, emptied of money and laying [sic] by the roadside in another county.

I have retained the text’s “3” to indicate the probable intent of communicating more information—but the hyperlink is inactive.  So I’m left with my unanswered questions.  Since Woodall is supposed to have needed the money desperately, was there any record of overdue bills being paid off suddenly right after September 3?  Was a substantial cash deposit made in Buddy’s bank account at about this time—or did he usually pay his monthly bills in cash?  Finding those answers now would likely be impossible, at least in a form that didn’t involve pure hearsay.  Did detectives ask the questions when hard evidence could have settled the issues?  Pardon my skepticism… but I somehow doubt it.

The wallet’s point of discovery could have been another highly significant detail.  Bladen Road appears to me to run very near the border of Glynn and Brantley Counties, the latter of which was Woodall’s home turf; so was the cryptic “roadside in another county” where Lynn’s wallet eventually turned up a bit of Brantley real estate around the bend from Buddy’s house… or are we approaching Florida or Alabama?

Once again, the Confirmation couldn’t have been less helpful if it were a rural signpost twisted about by rowdy high school kids on a Friday night.  Buddy Woodall was working two jobs to support a wife and three children; if the wallet showed up on the road to Athens or Atlanta, its depositing would have required a trip that the defendant couldn’t have budgeted into his busy schedule—not without producing a strange absence noticeable to all around him.

It turns out, however (as I eventually discovered from another document), that the wallet was found along Highway 110—which is actually very close to Bladen Road, just west enough to cross the Brantley County line. (Why Their Honors couldn’t have written “roadside in Brantley County” instead of “roadside in another county” is anyone’s guess.) But now I have several questions of a different sort. Why would Woodall have taken the wallet, in the first place?  If enrichment by any and all means were the motive of these two robbery/homicides, then why not take second victim Robert Van Allen’s watch and other effects? Why not? Because Woodall was no fool, and he would know that such a haul couldn’t have been fenced locally without leaving a trail.  But if Woodall was no fool, then I must ask, once again: why take the wallet? And being smart enough to realize that he didn’t want a bunch of perilously identifiable material knocking around in his pocket, why toss the wallet out the window in his home county just at a spot where it could easily be found? I guarantee you that you or I could “lose” such an article where it wouldn’t be recovered for decades.

I wonder if the wallet was taken to transmit loud and clear the message, “This was a robbery,” because… because the murder wasn’t really a robbery at all.  I return to my suspicions about a drug-related hit, considering the cold-blooded shot between the eyes (which the Confirmation effectively scuffed up).  By 2000, the lush, remote backwoods of the Gulf States were attracting marijuana-growers even from Mexican cartels.  (That’s right: the cartels would smuggle their highly armed “farmers” into secure pockets such as national forests—there’s a huge stretch of such forest along I 20 through Mississippi—and issue them orders to kill intruders on sight.)  Lavelle Lynn had mixed himself up in some extra-legal activity that had grown a lot more risky than running a whiskey still.  I think he may have paid the ultimate price for that error.

But those who built and prosecuted the case against Buddy Woodall—I’m sure without malice or conscious distortion—assembled and stated “facts” in such a way that all roads led to Buddy’s doorstep.  When a path stubbornly wandered elsewhere, they dumped brush over it, turned their backs, and walked away.

And yet, I don’t think a pandillero from Michoacan would have stolen guns from the senior Mr. Woodall’s safe and then, three months later, have murdered with one of them. That all points to somebody local.

Criminal Investigation: Too Much Blueprint and Not Enough Bricks? (Part I)

A Netflix serial titled The Confession Tapes crossed my bow a few months ago.  At the time, I was growing so weary of cases where our judicial system—whether through incompetence or malice afterthought—had put innocent people in a cage for life that I couldn’t take any more.  I wasn’t denying the evidence; I was just trying to fight back a mounting depression, whose waters were already rising a hell of a lot faster around me that anything threatened by “climate change”.

I happened to Tweet something about my dismay—a found a whole new cause to grow depressed.  In the time that it takes a neutrino to travel from the sun, I acquired all kinds of liberal friends… all of whom dropped me the next day, as soon as I shared a sentiment about our need for a national border.  Gee, sorry: I didn’t realize that the desire for a just “justice system” was a partisan issue.

One Tweet, however, had a haunting quality. It contained little more than something like, “We are Episode 6.”  Curious, I watched that episode: “The Labor Day Murders”.  It involved a double homicide with the objective of lightening one victim’s wallet by about $450 (or $490, as I see in some sources).  The crime was evidently an ambush along Glynn county’s rural Bladen Road in extreme southeastern Georgia, not far from Savannah.  I believe there was a railroad track running beside the road at that point.  Lavelle Lynn, owner of a garage and dealer in auto parts (and anything else that made money, legal or illegal) was shot between the eyes with a .22 caliber handgun.  His friend and employee, Robert Arthur Van Allen, was also shot in the head—twice—and was found lying on his back.

I’m not making a bid here for drama.  I insist upon the details because, while I have no expertise at all in forensics, I do flatter myself that I know something about human psychology.  Getting shot between the eyes with a pistol, dead center… how does that happen?  Old Westerns notwithstanding, you can’t hit a bull’s eye with a hipshot.  The weapon must have been extended into the victim’s face at close range.  Why would a burly mechanic and sometime drug dealer like Lavelle Lynn let a gun’s bore settle over his forehead without trying to swat it away—and maybe getting himself killed, but at least spoiling the perfectly centered entry?  The shot must have come as a surprise: he must have thought that some kind of transaction or negotiation was ongoing.  “Okay, you’ve got my wallet.  What more do you want?”  “Okay, so you’re selling weed on this side of the track.  My customers already know me.”  He must not have realized that the assailant had murder in mind before he had stopped their truck.

Lynn must have been shot first, which would have made Van Allen a less willing and stable target.  I suppose that’s why he required two shots that weren’t as “clean”.

The man who did this was a cold-blooded killer.  I think a turf war between drug dealers makes a lot of sense, because that’s where you find an abundance of… yes, animals.  A fellow who needed quick cash and was aware that Lavelle carried a wad of it around might not have left him alive—but I figure he would have shot him in the torso first and then finished him through the head when the eyes were turned away.  To pull the switch on a human life as two vibrant eyes stare straight at you is psychopathic.  Shades of Che and his death squads.

So, naturally, after months of spinning their wheels, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation decided to zero in on Buddy Woodall, Lavelle Lynn’s all-American boy of a nephew: loving husband and father, working hard at two jobs (two legal jobs), no record of violent crime or antisocial behavior, and—by the way—very fond of Uncle Lavelle, who would cheerfully have loaned him cash if he were in dire straits.

The author of the Tweet that had alerted me to this case was Buddy’s wife Kristy.

I’m not Kathleen Zellner: I’ve already said that.  I have no prosecutorial or forensic experience whatever.  I have indeed had just a little experience, as a burglary victim, of how little focus local cops sometimes bring to their task and how shaky their awareness of human nature can be.  Just because facing down bad guys from behind a badge appeals to you doesn’t necessarily mean that you understand how human beings tick.  It may increase the probability, I’m afraid, that you do not possess such understanding.

I’m going to continue these posts for at least two more occasions, unless Kristy Woodall asks me to desist.  My hope is that someone having the competencies so severely lacking in my own resume may take an interest in the case, whose “guilty” verdict was confirmed by the Georgia Supreme Court in late January of 2014.  Naturally, of special interest in the Netflix series were the dubious conditions under which Buddy’s “confession” was elicited—and I’ll get to that, for the online document publicly confirming the verdict is itself at odds with the televised account of the interrogation on at least one major issue.

For now, however, I’ll wrap up by mentioning what was the most damning item of evidence to me: the shell casings found on the property of Buddy’s parents.  These were said to have made a perfect match with casings recovered from the crime scene.  The murder weapon itself was never retrieved, so any further ballistics analysis was impossible.

When you stop and think about it, that in itself is puzzling: I mean, that you would commit a double homicide to harvest about $500 knowing that you’d have to discard the weapon—and knowing that the semi-automatic pistol itself (sold before the crime) might have brought a couple of hundred in a pawn shop.

But as for the shell casings: I was unaware before doing further research that the imprint of the firing pin could become a unique identifier.  There seems to be some slight question even today about its being so.  Almost twenty years ago, was the state of forensic science at the point where the identification could be considered foolproof?  If those tests were run again in 2019, what results would they yield?

The implied narrative behind the shells recovered in the back yard of Woodall Senior was obviously that Buddy would take target practice there.  Can we confirm that?  Did neighbors routinely hear gunshots from that direction?  (I can tell you as a resident of rural Georgia myself: you would hear, even if you lived miles away.)

Did Buddy in fact have a .22 semi-automatic registered to him at the time?  If so, and if it was never recovered… what was the reason given by him for its disappearance?  If it was stolen before September 3, 2000, can anyone confirm the theft from remarks or documentation preceding the murders?

These were details, naturally, that didn’t make it into the show, whose spotlight shone on the confession; but I have to wonder if they were details that local detectives ever attempted to supply.

My impression of certain cases is that their “architects” eagerly fill in pieces that contribute to the desired effect as they appear—and either ignore or don’t seek out other pieces that might detract from the emerging whole.  I have further reason to believe that such “artistry” may have played a role in Woodall’s conviction.  I’ll speak further of that later.