Sorrell's Report Uses Dissembling Language
The Attorney General's report uses language in a highly misleading fashion. Words appear to be carefully chosen to obscure facts from and manipulate from the reader, and only nominally conform to the body of evidence. Woody is painted as an unsympathetic dangerous character needing and wanting to be shot and killed.
The report uses language to obscure the consensus view
of the eyewitnesses that Woody
never threatened others
- The report states: At this point in time Woodward had not yet brandished the knife. Although it may not be technically incorrect to refer to someone pointing a knife at themselves as brandishing, the word has the (incorrect in this context) connotation of threatening others.
- The report states: "Virtually all eyewitnesses are clear that at this particular point in time Mr. Woodward was not directly threatening anyone other than himself. Some witnesses later told police they felt threatened in that they could not leave." Here the report implicitly conflates 'threatening' with 'felt threatened'. 'Threatening' is an objective description of a behavior, whereas 'felt threatened' describes an emotional state that may or may not be a response to a threat. 'Directly' and 'at this particularly point' are thrown in to further obscure the consensus view of the eyewitnesses that Woody did not threaten others at any time.
- The report states: "Finally, did Mr. Woodward present a threat to the police by virtue of his actions with the knife or otherwise? Some witnesses said very clearly that yes, this was so." In fact not a single church eyewitnesses has said that Woody threatened the officers. The use of the phrase 'present a threat to' in place of 'threaten' may render the statement technically consistent with this fact, but the effect of the statement is to suggest that eyewitnesses did say he threatened the officers.
The report uses language to misrepresent Woody's dominant emotion
as anger rather than fear,
and implies his behavior could only ratchet up to ever more dangerous extremes.
- The report states:
"As concerns about Mr. Woodward's behavior mounted, many people left the room." The use of 'mounted' subtly implies that the concerns could only increase.
- The report states:
"Mr. Woodward's behavior escalated as people began leaving .."
".. attempted to engage and de-escalate Mr. Woodward .."
"Mr. Woodward's behavior at this point significantly escalated."
".. that the situation was serious and was escalating."
".. this statement caused Robert Woodward to escalate very rapidly."
This and other words used in the the report create an image, through a drum-beat of repetition, of an ever-worsening situation spiraling out of control. Note that the one use of 'de-escalate' is minimized as an 'attempt,' when in fact it was so successful that Officer Holbrook had to ask a parishioner which of the two seated men was the subject.
- The phrase "extreme psychotic episode" used in the SUMMARY FINDINGS and "highly psychotic state" in the DETAILED FINDINGS imply a diagnosed and quantified level of psychosis when in fact there was no diagnosis at all, but only words of witnesses from which these phrases were extrapolated, the closest being "clearly psychotic" and "psychotic break." In fact Woody was not exhibiting signs of psychosis, such as talking to himself or people not there. He knew who he was, where he was, and what day it was.
- The report continues to hammer away on the idea of anger, using Italia's quote: "his intense absorption with his delusions was striking" to support a key element its conclusion: "given Woodward's level of anger and psychosis his movement towards the police with the knife prior to the first shot could reasonably have been construed by the officers as threatening"
- The report states:
The report uses language to obscure Woody's motives.
- The report puts words in Woody's mouth and removes others. It states he said "murder" on the message tape when he did not, while omitting his words "global warming," "I love you," and "Help." This attempt to make Woody seem less sympathetic is symptomatic of an undercurrent that runs through the report.
- While 'witnesses' is used extensively in the report, Woody's use of the word is conspicuously absent. The report states that Woody started to threaten himself when most of the people started to leave, but doesn't mention his plea for witnesses, which is essential to understanding the rational basis for his self-threats.