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.

R.I.P., Natalie Corona: The Devil Singe Your Hide, Crooked Prosecutors

In what I posted last week, I had no intent whatever of implying disrespect for, or even distrust of, the young people who put on a cop’s uniform to go draw fire in the undeclared wars of our urban centers.  When Natalie Corona—who was a year younger than my son, and had just entered active duty—was gunned down a couple of days ago during a routine traffic stop, I read what little I could find out with no satisfaction; and I will add that I find the grandstanding, rabble-rousing, leading-from-the-rear revolutionary poseurs on campuses who scream, “Death to pigs,” to have a part in such murders.  Not a very big part, for they’re incapable of contributing substantially to anything: enough of a part to be hanged on a very small gibbet on the very back row of Hell’s infamous hordes.

So, yes, I “support the police”… I think.  Kind of depends on what you mean.  I support ordinary people doing an extraordinarily dangerous job for modest pay and taking an extraordinary amount of abuse all the while.  My remarks of last week were not aimed at the Natalie Coronas of the world.  (For that matter, the backshooting butcher seems almost to have paraded in a bullet-proof vest before the cops who surrounded his home, aware that the “rules of engagement” rendered him even safer than his body armor.  Were it not for his having the decency to kill himself, his “ultra-sonic waves” defense probably would have won him a few years of therapy and then release. How much more insane can California become?)

The real villains, when law enforcement goes awry, are usually sitting behind a desk.  I don’t even know that I bear any particular grudge toward over-zealous detectives who manipulate suspects into dubious confessions.  It’s “how they were raised,” you know: part of the “culture”.  I can imagine that someone in that line hears so many lame stories in a typical month… “I wadn’t there… I just drove past… maybe I got out, but I didn’t go inside… he called me inside, and that’s when I looked through the screen door and seen the body… well maybe he wadn’t dead yet… it was two months ago, man, I can’t remember.”  God… and to think that I would lose patience with the excuses for why students’ papers were late!

The supervisors of the interrogators, however, are supposed to hold the reins.  They should instruct or discipline their subordinates when things show signs of going KGB.  Instead, too often, they take a dirty ball and run it to the goal line, trying to clean it off as they go.  As long as the chief clears his cases… as long as the DA gets a conviction: the public must feel secure (whether it truly is or not), the voters must be placated, the résumé must be spruced up… or perhaps we just want to get to retirement.  Sure, Chief, whose life is really ruined?  Everyone feels better except the guy going to jail for a crime he didn’t commit—and your footsoldiers have ascertained that the community is better off with him in lock-up, anyway, whether he did this crime or some other that he skated on.

They say a fish rots from the head; and the closer we get to the head, the worse the smell gets.  The District Attorneys with lofty career ambitions are the ones who begin to frighten me.  Rudy Giuliani made a couple of bids to be POTUS, and Kamala Harris has a very real chance of being her party’s nominee for 2020.  They aim for the stars, some of these warriors for justice.  What is it in me that would like to see a DA focused 100 percent on doing the job?

Then we get to the top of the ladder, where wolves in judicial robes are snarling over the bones of the republic that they tear apart.  Mike Flynn lately pleaded guilty to a perjury charge related to an interview that was a) supposed to be informal, and b) offered no evidence of falsehood to the actual interviewers.  Why did he take a plea deal?  Because the commander of the judicial Gestapo was threatening to frame his son for some crime to be named later.  Wouldn’t you fall on your sword to save your son?  I would.

People may protest, “But you’re tarring the whole system just because of an isolated case here and there in remote jurisdictions with no budget and because of a few high-profile cases where politics has warped the process.”  Here’s my response.  We were once outraged as a nation every time we discovered that our justice system was being abused.  Now we cheer if the abuse targets someone whom we dislike; or if the victim is a complete nobody, we adopt the Caiaphas line and applaud the savings in time and resources.  As long as it doesn’t impact us personally, we can wrap ourselves in a worldly sort of cynicism, murmur, “So goes the world,” and fall back to sleep.

But what if our turn comes around?  Former Representative Steve Stockman is serving ten years after being railroaded through the system by the Obama “Justice Department” on a trumped-up charge of misusing campaign funds (but really for criticizing El Supremo’s administration).  If they want you, they’ll get you.  What, for instance, is sitting on your iPad or iPhone right now that you don’t know about?  Kiddie porn, perhaps—sufficient to get you at least three years of hard time?  Can “they” do that—can they upload things onto your devices without your knowing of it?  I’ve heard of cases, though of course I can strain little accurate information from the chatter… and, naturally, the “news media” will continue to report on Mexican children being machine-gunned along the Bravo rather than research an actual story.  All I know is that, last week, I found two music videos downloaded on my iPad and iPhone featuring homosexual lovers in embrace—and I have never downloaded any music of any kind onto any of my devices.  I scrubbed the music ap and all its contents entirely from my software… but, of course, I don’t know what other surprises might be hiding in other corners.

That incident shook me up.  It got me to thinking about how very, very easy creating a criminal past for Citizen X would be in an era when everyone is more or less coerced into depositing sensitive information online.  If they want you, they’ll get you.  The officers who pile out of the squad cars to cuff you and cart you off will probably be as innocent as your own sons and daughters… but they will be working for the wolves of hell concealed in a human hide.