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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

Examination of Sorrell's DETAILED FINDINGS OF FACT

The following is an point-by-point examination of the DETAILED FINDINGS OF FACT section of the Attorney General's "Woodward shooting report". This section of the report seems crafted to distract the reader into overlooking the many flaws of the report as a whole, and from the central issue of whether the police used excessive force by for example, shooting Woody after he had fallen. It so distracts by painting Woody as dangerous and becomming ever more so, and by skirting over the shaky theory of the shooting itself, avoiding mention of facts like the bullet wound to Woody's back, or the denial of first aid.

> DETAILED FINDINGS OF FACT
> 
> 1. Robert Woodward entered the All Souls Church, located in West
> Brattleboro, at approximately 10:00 AM on Sunday December 2, 2001. There
> were approximately 65 persons attending services that day, approximately a
> dozen of whom were children. Woodward immediately proceeded to the podium
> with a small duffel bag that he placed on the floor behind the podium. He
> appeared very agitated and out of breath. Mental health professionals in the
> congregation described him as being in a highly psychotic state.
The phrase "highly psychotic state" used here, as well as the phrase "extreme psychotic episode" used in the SUMMARY FUNDINGS, implies a diagnosed and quantified level of psychosis, when in fact there was no diagnosis at all, and one psychaitrist said she could not see sign of psychosis. The report dishonestly attributes these phrases to witnesses, when in fact the most similar phase used by any of the witnesses was "clearly psychotic."
> He spoke to
> the congregation, sometimes while shouting, about a number of matters,
> including various government conspiracies, his concerns that he was going to
> be tortured and killed for his environmental activism and his need for
> sanctuary. He seemed to suggest that the CIA was involved in the deaths of
> certain famous people including George Harrison and Bob Marley.
The "sometimes while shouting" flourish is not supported by the eyewitness evidence, and is apparently a fabrication designed to reinforce the idea that the victim was irrational. This is the only place the report mentions Woody's request for sanctuary, which he made so emphatically that every eyewitness recalled it. Sorrell buries the request in the alleged rant to strip it of any legal significance.
> 2. Mr. Woodward refused or ignored requests made by several persons that he
> leave the podium and go to another area of the church complex to discuss his
> concerns.
The two such requests we know of, Butterfield's and Thomas's, were rebuffed with a plausable explanation: not knowing either man, he did not want to leave his witnesses in the sanctuary.
> 3. As concerns about Mr. Woodward's behavior mounted, many people left the
> room. All the children were removed and Charles Butterfield, the President
> of the Church, placed a 911 call. The initial report given by Butterfield to
> the 911 operator included that there was a person who had "gone berserk" and
> was refusing to leave the church.
The use of the word 'mounted' implies that the concerns could only increase. This and the repeated use of the word 'escalate' seem calculated to create an image of an ever-worsening situation through a drum-beat of repetition, quite apart from the evidence.
> 4. Mr. Woodward's behavior escalated as people began leaving the room. In
> response, he took out a folding knife with a 3.5-inch blade, held it to his
> head and right eye and threatened he would kill himself if people left.
A word is conspicuously missing here is 'witness.' Woody reportedly begged people to stay as witnesses.
> 5. Three Brattleboro police officers (Marshall Holbrook, Terrance Parker and
> William Davies) were dispatched to the scene. En route the officers received
> updated information from the dispatcher, including that the individual was
> "making threats towards the congregation," was armed with a knife, was
> threatening to harm himself and that he was "upset with the police, that
> he's been threatened by them."
The report implies that the phrase "making threats towards the congregation," is factually correct when it is not supported by a single eyewitness account.
> 6. Prior to the arrival of the police officers, certain members of the
> congregation, including psychologist Michael Italia and psychiatric nurse
> practitioner Jane Worley attempted to engage and de-escalate Mr. Woodward,
> who, for a brief period of time put the knife back in his pocket.
Brief compared to what? Was the time he had the knife out brief too? Note that it only says they attempted, not accomplished, de-escalation, yet Woody was sitting next to Michael and giving him numbers to dial, a detail conspicuous in it's absence. Woody was calm enough at the time that when officer Hollbrook peeked in the room and saw Woody and Michael seated next to eachother, he had to ask someone which man was the suspect.
> 7. Immediately prior to the police arriving, a member of the congregation
> entered the room and announced in a loud voice that everyone was to leave.
> Mr. Woodward's behavior at this point significantly escalated. He again took
> out the knife and held it very close to his eye.
This implies that Woody's behavior 'escalated' prior to the arrival of the police, to support the idea that he was becoming ever more dangerous to the congregation. But, according to Tommy Thomas, Woody jumped up and pulled out the knife and pointed at himself as before because he had seen the first officer (Hollbrook) poke his head around the corner. This is conformed by Hollbrook's own statement which has him seeing the two men seated in the front and not knowing which was the 'suspect.'
> 8. Holbrook was the first officer to arrive on scene. He attempted, without
> alerting Woodward, to signal the remaining people to leave. Parker and
> Davies arrived very shortly after Holbrook. The officers entered the
> sanctuary together with Parker ultimately proceeding up the center aisle,
> Holbrook proceeding up the left side and Davies taking a position toward the
> rear. There were at least 18 people still in the sanctuary at the time the
> police entered.
> 
> 9. As Officer Parker approached Mr. Woodward, he repeatedly requested him to
> put down the knife. Mr. Woodward ignored these requests and continued to act
> in an extremely agitated manner. He was standing and moving about. Parker
> and Holbrook drew their firearms as they approached the front of the
> sanctuary. Davies, who continued attempts to get people to leave the room,
> did not draw his firearm. Mr. Woodward had the knife out in various
> positions, including at his right eye, continued threatening he would commit
> suicide. He was moving about, "shrieking" and acting irrationally.
What does irrationally mean here -- that his arguments were not sound, that his grammar was bad, or was it that he failed to obey police orders? Shrieking when one (correctly) believes they are about to be shot doesn't seem particularly irrational.
> 10. Parker positioned himself near the front row center with his firearm
> pointed at Woodward. At this time Mr. Woodward was in the area between the
> podium and the Christmas tree, approximately 8-15 feet from Parker. Jane
> Worley was sitting in the front row on the right side and was approximately
> 10 feet from Mr. Woodward. There was no object or person between Ms. Worley
> and Mr. Woodward.
Elsewhere in this document, the reason Davies did not draw firearm is described, according to himself, as, "Officer Parker and members of the church were between him and Woodward, so that he did not feel he could have a clear shot." Yet according to Tommy Thomas all three officers were in the front of the room when the shots were fired. Thus the reason Davies did not draw his gun while the others did is explained away by confusing the timeline.
> 11. Robert Woodward made a forward motion in the direction of Parker, with
> the knife still in his hand. Officer Parker fired the first shot, which
> struck Woodward and caused him to jerk backwards and to his right.
Interesting contrast between the vague description of the 'forward motion' and the precise recounting of his reaction to the shot, particularly given the widely varying descriptions of motion or lack of motion by witnesses cited elsewhere in the report. The reason for the 'jerk backwards and to his right' is obvious: it is consistent with the first bullet hitting him in the arm rather than the abdomen, and since he hadn't started to move forward yet, the use of deadly force at that juncture would have been more problematic.
> 12. With the knife still in his hand, Mr. Woodward continued to advance in
> the direction of Officer Parker. Parker shot three more times. Officer
> Holbrook shot after the first Parker shot. Holbrook shot three times. A
> total of seven shots were fired, the last six in rapid succession.
So, if the last 6 are in rapid succession, How could a bullet have entered his back unless he had fallen before he was struck by the last of that barrage. Note the use of the language 'in the direction of Officer Parker' without clarifying that the direction in which he was moving (if he was moving) was, in all likelihood, at an angle from the direction of Parker. According to Thomas, Woody was heading toward the door, which was at an angle from Parker and from the other officers.
> 13. After the last shot was fired, Mr. Woodward fell in front and to the
> left of the podium. From his position at the time of the first shot until he
> fell, he traveled a distance of approximately 15 feet in the direction of
> and across the front of Officer Parker.
Here is the critical 'finding' -- that Woody fell after the last shot was fired, a finding which is highly questionable. Elsewhere the report attempts to descredit the statements of witnesses who said Woody was shot after he had fallen, one of Whom, Tommy Thomas died suddenly since the shooting. The distance estimate of 15 feet is far greater than estimates of distances we heard from witnesses. Note that the distance to Parker is given with as 8-15 feet, but no such leeway is given for the distance Woody suppossedly traveled.
> 14. Mr. Woodward continued to hold on to the knife after he fell. The
> Officers pried the knife from his hands and handcuffed him. The handcuffs
> were removed when requested by rescue personnel.
Note also the omission of ununiformed physician Phyllis Woodring's refused requests to remove the handcuffs so she could give first aid.
> 15. Medical assistance was rendered promptly, first by those present, then
> by Brattleboro Rescue, which had been placed on standby at a nearby location
> at the time of the 911 call and entered the church within minutes of the
> shooting.
40 minutes to get to the hospital 3 miles away is prompt?
> 16. Mr. Woodward was conscious and able to talk after he was shot. He made
> many statements that were similar to the ones he had been making earlier at
> the podium. Mr. Woodward was also heard on the answering machine tape to say
> that this was a "political assassination" and "murder."
We can not hear "murder" on the tape. All we can hear Woody saying are the following things (repeated and not necessarily in order): "It's a political assassination," "It's about global warming," "I love you," "help," "help me," and groans which do not sound like "murder". "Murder" appears to be a fabrication intended to reinforce the anger theme that Sorrell uses to hide Woody's fear.
> He also repeatedly
> said he wanted to apologize to the officer that he assaulted, and that he
> wanted them to shoot him. These statements were heard by several medical and
> law enforcement personnel.
'Assaulted' is used elsewhere in this document in double quotes implying it was spoken by Woody. But here it is used to imply a finding of fact, quite apart from what Woody allegedly said as he lay dying. Not only is the implied finding unsupported, the allegation that Woody admitted to assaulting an officer is made only by rescue personnell working for the town, and is repeated in a pattern that destroys its credibility.
> 17. Mr. Woodward died during surgery as a result of the gunshot wounds. The
> autopsy confirms seven gunshot wounds. It also indicates an incision cut on
> his right eyelid and superficial linear scratches on the right side of his
> head and face.
The fact that one wound punctured vital organs and another entered his back apparently do not warrant inclusion in the 'DETAILED FINDINGS OF FACT,' while scratches do.

page last modified: 2008-07-20