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Version 3.8
Copyright 2001-2008
JusticeForWoody.net site last revised 1/17/06
fair use notice

Killing Reaction Cases Evidence Analysis Media Woody

Unanswered Questions

-- list as of October, 2002 --

The Vermont Attorney General's report, rather than answering most of the questions, only raised more questions. This page updates the previous list, which predated that report.

    The Shooting

  1. Why was Woody, who had no history of mental illness, did not use drugs, and was known for his calmness, equanimity, and rationality, in such great fear that morning that he decided to go before a church congregation to plead for sanctuary?
  2. Why did the dispatcher relay ambiguous second-hand information (that Woody was making threats 'to the congregation') to the police without ascertaining whether he was threatening the congregation or merely expressing his self-threats to the congregation.
  3. Given that the officers were informed that Woody was armed only with a knife, was suicidal, and was afraid of police, why did they not bring additional means of non-lethal restraint, such as stun guns or rubber bullets?
  4. Why did the police officers not assess the situation when they noticed the calmness of the scene upon arriving at the church? Officer Holbrook arrived before the other officers and waited outside the sanctuary, during which time he could have interviewed churchmembers.
  5. Why did the three uniformed officers rapidly advance toward Woody, given they had been told of his fear of police? At that time Woody had retreated into the corner of the room away from any parishioners, and continued to threaten only himself.
  6. Why did the officers fail to negotiate with Woody? The only words most eyewitnesses heard from Officer Parker, who was trained in hostage negotiation, was "Drop the knife." Several recalled him shouting the order.
  7. How is is possible that the officers could have considered Woody, a man of 140 lbs holding a small knife toward himself, such a threat to themselves that they felt compelled to use force against him; particularly when each was standing at least 8 feet away from him, outfitted in body armor, and two of them were training their 40 caliber semiautomatic weapons on him?
  8. How is is possible that the officers could have considered Woody a threat to parishioners present when the only one closer to him than the nearest officer was Jane Worley, who was there voluntarily and offered her negotiation services to Officer Parker before the shooting.
  9. Why did the officers start shooting before any significant forward movement by Woody, as indicated by the body of eyewitness testimony?
  10. Given that, why did the officers not use the pepper spray each was carrying, a body tackle, warning shots, or, if necessary, a shot to his leg, instead of resorting to lethal force?
  11. Why was the lethal force used by the officers so overwhelming, consisting of 7 40-caliber bullets? It is implausible that that many bullets would not halt an advance.
  12. Why did officers continue to fire shots into Woody's body after he collapsed on the floor, as many as 5 shots while he lay on the floor according to at least one credible eyewitness account, and supported by forensic evidence such as the location of the bullet wounds?
  13. Why was one of the rounds fired into Woody's back, as revealed by the autopsy?
  14. Why were these actions resulting in the death of Woody taken by two of three experienced officers all of whom were veterans with considerable experience, including, one would presume, skill in risk assessment?
  15. Why did the officers fail to read Woody his Miranda rights?
  16. Why was Woody handcuffed after the shooting (which had shattered bones in his right arm), and why did the police wait for as much as 15 minutes to remove the handcuffs, refusing repeated requests by a physician present to remove them? EMTs were only able to stop the bleeding after they rolled him over once the handcuffs were removed.
  17. Why did it take 21 minutes to move Woody from the church floor to the ambulance after the shooting, as indicated by the timeline of events, given that the ambulance was on the scene within 2 minutes of the shooting?
  18. Why did it take 22 minutes for the ambulance to transport Woody from the church parking lot to the Brattleboro hospital as indicated by the timeline of events when the route is about 3 miles with few impediments, including only a single traffic light.
  19. Why did it take two hours and 45 minutes from the time of the shooting to begin to evacuate Woody to a facility that was equipped to treat his heart trauma, when a physician on the scene had diagnosed that trauma within minutes of the shooting?
  20. Did any of the officers have any prior dealings with or knowledge of Woody?
  21. The Investigation

  22. What became of the shirt Woody was wearing when he was shot? Was it entered into evidence?
  23. Was analysis of blood-spatter patterns at the scene conduced? If not, why not? EMT Brian Patno expressed confidence Woody was shot where he fell because "he was laying right there in all the blood".
  24. Why was eyewitness Tommy Thomas not questioned about whether Woody was shot after he fell, given that he wrote there were shots after he fell in his written statement?
  25. Why was the chronology in Janis Chaillou's written statement in which shots are fired after she observed Woody on the floor omitted from the version typed by the detective?
  26. Why were the only two eyewitnesses asked whether there were shots after Woody had fallen two of the most elderly women present?
  27. Why did representatives of the Vermont State Police announce on December 3rd findings that the police were justified in their actions when that was supposedly the question they would be investigating for the next 4 months?
  28. Why were the three officers allowed to fill out their reports on the incident in the same room, unsupervised, the day after the shooting?
  29. Why did the state refuse to release the body to Woody's family, allowing them to take possession of it only after they had destroyed (incinerated) it, at a time before the Woodward's had retained attorneys, and before an independent autopsy could be performed?
  30. Have there been any official or unofficial reports of previous aggressive behaviors by the officers?
  31. Why were the officers who shot Woody returned to active duty before any investigation was completed?
  32. Why did the state block discovery by the Woodward's attorneys, given they are experienced and conscientious lawyers in good standing bound by the laws of Vermont not to meddle with evidence.
  33. Why did Sorrell's detectives neither record nor transcribe their March eyewitness interviews? At least one eyewitness expressed frustration that her statements were not accurately reflected in the detective's summary.
  34. Why were the March eyewitness interviews, a key ingredient of Sorell's report, neither tape-recorded nor transcribed?
  35. The Attorney General's Woodward Shooting Report

  36. Why is the report extremely vague about the location of the bullet wounds, not disclosing what side of Woody's body they were on, whether there were exit wounds, or which bullet was the cause of death.
  37. Why is the majority of the report devoted to describing Woody's mental state, which is almost irrelevant to the justification of the shooting, while only a small fraction addresses the actual shooting.
  38. How can the report reasonably deem the actions of the shooters legally justified when its DETAILED FINDINGS OF FACT are extremely vague about the moment of shooting, stating only: "Robert Woodward made a forward motion in the direction of Parker, with the knife still in his hand", not even indicating whether the motion was with his body mass or a body part and which direction the knife was pointing?
  39. Why did Sorrell's detectives use only a near-to-scale drawing of the sanctuary, given the importance of vantage points and the presence or absence of obstructions in witnesses' lines of sight, and the importance of establishing what was in the officer's line of fire?
  40. Why does the report represent as eyewitnesses quotes detective summaries of the unrecorded March interviews, and why does it cite those summaries almost to the exclusion of the December interviews and statements, without disclosing that fact?

page last modified: 2005-12-14