The Robert Woodward Shooting
Evidence of a Conspiracy to Obstruct Justice

Version 1: released November 26, 2003

Introduction

On December 2, 2001, Robert Woodward died after being shot 7 times by police in a Brattleboro, Vermont church.

Beginning that day, the Vermont State Police investigators conducted recorded interviews with each of the 18 eyewitnesses, who were asked where they were looking at the moment of the first shot, and whether they saw any threatening movements made toward the police officers. To a person, they did not.

In addition, eyewitnesses volunteered that they had seen Woodward shot after he had fallen to the floor, and that he had been denied desperately needed medical care. Each time incriminating evidence was volunteered, the interviewer quickly changed the subject, and it was never pursued again.

The three officers present at the shooting were allowed to fill out their reports in the same room, unsupervised, and the two shooters and admitted to discussing the incident prior to their interviews by investigators the next day. The third officer's interview contains an exchange that corroborates eyewitness accounts that the victim was shot from above.

While securing the crime scene, officials apparently refrained from gathering crucial physical evidence or performing basic forensic analysis procedures, including those which could either prove or refute the eyewitness claims.

On December 20, officials staged an incident reenactment with the three officers present at the shooting. Reenactments were performed with only 3 of the 18 church eyewitnesses.

Months later, officials re-interviewed the eyewitnesses, but chose not to record their words. Recollections from the officials conducting these interviews, rather than quotes from the eyewitnesses themselves, formed the basis for the eventual exoneration.

Vermont Attorney General William Sorrell closed the matter with his April 2, 2002 Woodward Shooting Report, which justified the shooting as self-defense. It praised the investigation as "competent" and "diligent," while carefully hiding the evidence that the victim was shot after falling and then denied medical care.

Vermont Governor Howard Dean, facing an outcry from citizens, the ACLU, and Vermont legislators, refused calls for an independent investigation, saying that he was "comfortable" with Sorrell's report. Dean maintained this position despite admitting to having read the evidence of down shooting and denial of first aid. Dean appointed Sorrell to the post of Attorney General. The two are longtime friends and political allies.

This document presents evidence that William Sorrell led a conspiracy to obstruct justice by engaging in a pattern of activity to conceal three types of evidence:

  • Evidence that Robert Woodward was shot from above after he had fallen to the floor.
  • Evidence that Woodward was denied necessary and available medical care.
  • Evidence of a fraudulent investigation.
  • This document concludes with the assertion that Governor Dean is an accomplice to the conspiracy.

    
    

    Detailed Analysis

    For this discussion, evidence is abbreviated as follows:
    DSE: Down Shooting Evidence (firing downward into a fallen person).
    FADE: First Aid Denial Evidence (denying a person necessary and available medical care).

    Table of Contents

    DSE (Down Shooting Evidence)

    A. Officials possessed DSE.

    1. Eyewitness interviews indicate down shooting.
    2. Bullet wounds indicate down shooting.
    3. Timeline indicates down shooting.
    4. Lines of fire indicate down shooting.

    B. Officials avoided collecting DSE.

    1. Events after the first shot were not explored.
    2. Reenactment data was not evaluated.
    3. Forensic artifacts were not collected.
    4. Standard forensic analysis procedures were avoided.

    C. Attorney General Sorrell is concealing DSE.

    1. Sorrell is concealing eyewitness DSE.
    2. Sorrell is concealing forensic DSE.
    3. Sorrell is concealing the nature of the official investigation.

    FADE (First Aid Denial Evidence)

    A. Officials possessed FADE.

    1. Dr. Woodring's December 2nd interview recounts her repeated requests that Woodward's handcuffs be removed.
    2. Evidence indicates bleeding could not be controlled until handcuffs were removed.
    3. Officials' statements establish handcuffing lasted at least 10 minutes.
    4. Long and inexplicable delays occurred in transporting Woodward to the hospital.

    B. Officials avoided collecting FADE.

    1. Eyewitnesses were not questioned about FADE.
    2. EMT reports containing no details of patient care were accepted as adequate.

    C. Attorney General Sorrell is concealing FADE.

    1. Sorrell's report nowhere mentions FADE.
    2. Sorrell hides FADE in findings of fact with misleading language.
    3. Sorrell substitutes alleged confession for any information about medical care.

    Conclusion

    A. Governor Dean possessed DSE and FADE

    B. Governor Dean and Attorney General Sorrell Conspired to Obstruct Justice

    
    

    DSE (Evidence of Down Shooting)

    A. Officials possessed DSE.

    1. Eyewitness interviews indicate down shooting.
    EMT Brian Patno's September 16th interview contained this exchange:

    Patno: "And that was obviously where he got hit cause he was lying right there in all the blood."
    Interviewer: "Okay. So it was evident to you that there was some ..."
    Patno: "That was where he was hit. "
    Interviewer: "There was some ..."

    Mary Hunt's December 2nd interview contained this exchange:

    Interviewer: "Where was he when he was shot?"
    Hunt: "[...] and so they wrestled him down and he was down on the floor when the shots came."
    Interviewer: "He was already down on the floor when the shots came?"
    Hunt: "Yeah. Yeah. The policeman had pulled him down. He was on the floor. He wasn't standing up behind the pulpit when that happened, I'm sure."

    Janis Chaillou's December 2nd written statement included a clearly labeled chronology with the following sequence:

    Entrance Bob at podium
    Talk to us - pass out slips
    Children outside
    We were being in small groups
    Police moved in
    1-2 shots
    Fell to floor near podium - blood
    Several shots
    Police surrounded him
    Left room

    Her December 2nd interview includes the following passage:

    "... I didn't see him get hit. I didn't see the several shots. I just heard the one shot, pause, I saw him on the floor. You know, I saw those other shots, I saw him on the floor ..."

    Jane Worley in her December 2nd interview said:

    "I have to question the traumatic state the police officer was in then he delivered those shots. Because I didn't see how the other shots were inflicted, if the gentleman was turning over, if he started taking the knife to himself, I don't know. I don't know if that would explain the reasons why he received the other gunshot wounds where he did."

    Dr. Woodring in her December 2nd interview said:

    "When the EMTs got there, they finally convinced them that they had to get the handcuffs off, so they took the handcuffs off. When they got the handcuffs off, I saw another entry wound in his front, in his upper right quadrant. I never saw any exit wounds but there was a bullet over on his left side. It was just under the skin. It was just obviously right there. I felt like I could cut the skin I could remove the bullet."

    J.B.C. Thomas' December 2nd written statement stated:

    "Altogether there might have been six shots, some after Woodward fell.."

    2. Bullet wounds indicate down shooting.
    Woodward received 7 bullets: One to his left arm, four to his right arm, and one each to his abdomen and back. Eyewitness and EMT statements indicate that the entry wounds in his abdomen and back were both on his right side. Woodward came to rest on his left side, exposing his right side to gunfire, consistent with the location of his wounds. Moreover, the presence of a bullet just under the skin on his left side, observed by Dr. Woodring, suggests that Woodward was fired upon as he lay against a firm surface, such as the rug on which he fell.

    3. Timeline indicates down shooting.
    In a May 30, 2002 interview on Vermont Public Radio, Sorrell stated that there was a delay of two to three seconds between the first shot and the final fusillade. According to Sorrell, Woodward began a charge before the first shot was fired, and fell to the ground after the last, covering a distance of between 12 to 14 feet.

    "The weight of the statements was, yes, he moved about 12 to 14 feet from where he was at the time he started the charge to where he fell." "Most of the rest [of the witnesses] said it was a matter of 2 or 3 seconds, which we believe is consistent with what happened."

    Sorrell's statement reveals that, in order for Woodward to have been upright and in motion during the final fusillade, Woodward's "charge" would have had to average a rate of travel of less than 4 to 7 feet per second, somewhat slower than a walk. Police and eyewitness accounts indicating that Woodward moved more rapidly than this suggest that he arrived at his final location on the floor before the final shots were fired. Given the distance Woodward traveled, the delay between the first and last shots indicates down shooting.

    4. Lines of fire indicate down shooting.
    According to the accounts of all three officers, during the shooting Officer Holbrook was positioned at the front of the room, to the left of the podium as viewed by those seated. Woodward was located 12 to 14 feet away, to the right of the podium. After the first two shots, as Woodward traveled from right to left in front of Officer Holbrook, the seated parishioners were directly in the line of fire from Holbrook to Woodward. Holbrook did not have a clear line of fire at Woodward until he fell, after which Holbrook would have been able to fire downward into Woodward without risking bystanders.

    A transcript of a tape recording made during Officer Davies' December 3rd, 2001 interview with State Police detectives points out this observation while also dismissing and ignoring it.

    Davies: "Right..there was no one in his line of fire and there was no one in Officer Holbrook's line of fire other than the suspect."
    Detective 1: "OK..so that people had cleared out form the front seats or were they still there?"
    Davies: "They would still be in the seats but, how the proximity of Officer Holbrook and Officer Parker was like a L in reference to the subject."
    Detective 2: "Would you sign that diagram and date it."
    Detective 1: "OK...I understand...One thing. Would you sign that diagram and date it...anywhere...just print your name and sign it."
    Davies: "OK...the one thing that I want to clarify is that when Officer Holbrook did shot he was shooting in an easterly fashion and with the diagram it makes the easterly shot look if these people were in jeopardy from his shooting and that is not the case. "
    Detective 1: "Correct...and just to clear it up..this is not drawn to scale, this is just to kind of give us a..."
    Davies: "Proximity of the scene."
    Detective 1: "Exactly. You don't carry a second firearm, do you?"

    B. Officials avoided collecting DSE.

    1. Events after the first shot were not explored.

    Questioning of eyewitnesses consistently focused on the positions of actors immediately prior to and at the moment of the first shot. There was no questioning on their positions during subsequent shots. Although questions were asked about where Woodward fell, there were no questions about the firing of shots at that time, other than the exceptions of eyewitnesses Polly Wilson and Mary Hunt noted above.

    Despite possessing DSE, officials chose not to pursue the subject, with the exception of two elderly eyewitnesses, Polly Wilson and Mary Hunt. When Mary Hunt responded affirmatively, the line of questioning was ended.

    2. Reenactment data was not evaluated.
    The publicly released evidence packet contains 3 police and 16 eyewitness drawings indicating the positions of the officers, Woodward, and themselves. Apparently, no attempt was made to determine the positions of the officers and Woodward based on the aggregate data, nor was a composite drawing created showing the positions of everyone in the room. Were such a composite drawing to be made, it would show that parishioners were in the line of fire during the time that Holbrook claims he fired at Woodward. Sorrell's report indicated they received
    "a near-to-scale depiction" from NESPIN, but does not disclose why an accurate scale model was not used instead. The results of the reenactments were recorded on these 2 by 3 inch, hand-drawn sketches. Officer Davies' interview indicates that officials were aware of the difficulty they presented when determining lines of fire.

    3. Forensic artifacts were not collected.
    Although eyewitness statements indicate that Woodward wore a shirt, and that he fell on a carpet, there is no indication that these items were taken into evidence. These artifacts may have provided decisive DSE in the form of gunpowder residues or bullet impact damage.

    4. Standard forensic analysis procedures were avoided.
    There have been no public statements from officials on what if any forensic analysis procedures were conducted, such as gunpowder residue, bullet impact, or blood spatter analysis. Inquiries to Attorney General Sorrell's office as to whether such procedures were conducted were not answered.

    C. Attorney General Sorrell is concealing DSE.

    1. Sorrell is concealing eyewitness DSE.
    In Sorrell's report, the DETAILED FINDINGS OF FACT section asserts:

    "After the last shot was fired, Mr. Woodward fell in front and to the left of the podium."

    Although this implies a finding that Woodward was upright when the last shot was fired, it literally requires only that Woodward fell some distance, perhaps 2 inches, after the last shot. Sorrell's failure to find that Woodward was upright at the time of the last shot suggests that Sorrell believes that down shooting occurred and is avoiding legally binding statements to the contrary.

    Sorrell's public statements when questioned about down shooting appear to be carefully worded to avoid asserting that down shooting did not occur. The Burlington Free Press quotes him saying:

    "If I thought Mr. Woodward was shot after he was down on the ground and wasn't resisting at all I can assure you that our report would have been much different. "

    Sorrell's statements are literally consistent with a belief that Woodward was shot while down.

    Sorrell's report disposes of the most unequivocal eyewitness DSE taken from Thomas' written statement by embedding it within a context that has the effect of rendering it completely implausible. The sentence appears immediately after the confused-sounding quote by Mary Hunt, "so they wrestled him down and he was down on the floor when the shots came" in the section DIFFERING EYEWITNESS RECOLLECTIONS. The purpose of this section appears to be to cast all but the statements of the four featured eyewitness as unreliable. Thomas' statement is immediately followed by a paragraph about differences in eyewitness accounts being explainable due to different vantage points, implying Thomas did not have a good vantage point. In fact, Thomas had an excellent vantage point from his standing position on the elevated ramp in the right rear of the room.

    Sorrell's report makes no mention of Janis Chaillou's recollection of shots after she saw Woodward on the floor, nor of Jane Worley's statement about him turning over, nor of EMT Patno's observation that Woodward had been shot where he lay.

    Sorrell chose to re-type some of the eyewitness written statements. Chaillou's was one such statement. The typed version is not only purged of the chronology described above, it also rewords her last paragraph.

    The effect of this unusual treatment is to remove the DSE. Her original written statement reads:

    "They shot him once - kept coming. Popping sound. Several more times - total of 4 to 6 shots? He fell in front of podium - I saw blood on his elbow, floor. Still yelling - 3-6 shots? I do not know who fired."

    Whereas Sorrell's typed version reads:

    "The police shot him once and he kept coming. Chaillou thought there were 4 to 6 shots. He fell in front of the podium and was still yelling. She did not know who fired the shots."

    2. Sorrell is concealing forensic DSE.
    Sorrell is extremely vague about the gunshot wounds. While the DETAILED FINDINGS OF FACT make no mention whatsoever of the location of the wounds, the SUMMARY FINDINGS provides these clues:

    "four bullets in the right arm, one in the left arm, one in the abdomen and one in the lower back."

    Sorrell makes no mention of exit wounds, which bullets remained in the body, and which was the cause of death. More to the point, he fails to disclose that the two entry wounds to the torso were both on the right side, and does not mention the bullet Dr. Woodring observed under the skin on Woodward's left side. This bullet is evidence that he was fired upon as he lay against the rug.

    Sorrell continues to suppress the autopsy and ballistics reports, evidence decisive in whether or not down shooting occurred. Sorrell remains silent on the whereabouts of Woodward's shirt and the rug upon which he fell.

    3. Sorrell is concealing the nature of the official investigation.
    In the SCOPE OF INVESTIGATION section of his report, Sorrell states that "The reenactments, done one individual at a time, were to identify or clarify the location of key participants and eyewitnesses at the critical moments during the shooting." without revealing that the reenactments did not consider the critical moments between the first and last shots.

    Sorrell's report states that "Measurements were taken and the New England State Police Information Network (NESPIN) prepared a near-to-scale depiction." without revealing that the depiction used was a sketch with highly distorted proportions.

    Sorrell's report states that "We gave particular weight to statements made just after the shooting, certainly within 24 hours of its occurrence." without revealing that the statements which form the basis of his report were taken months after the shooting.

    Sorrell's report states that "There are approximately 35 audio-tapes of the interviews." without revealing that the interviews forming the basis of his report were neither recorded nor transcribed.

    Sorrell's report states that "Lab personnel collected evidence..." without revealing that crucial forensic evidence was not collected, such as Woodward's shirt and the carpet.

    Sorrell's report states that "Among those deserving of recognition and thanks for their competent, diligent efforts and willing cooperation in the conducting of this investigation are the Vermont State Police, particularly Detective Sergeant Reg Trayah..." without revealing that the investigation avoided collecting unfavorable evidence.

    FADE (Evidence of Denial of First Aid)

    A. Officials possessed FADE.

    1. Dr. Woodring's December 2nd interview recounts her repeated requests that Woodward's handcuffs be removed.

    "I could see one in his flank area and so I needed to look at his front to see what because I thought he was I mean when I last looked he was facing the policemen so I was concerned about what was in the front, but I couldn't get him turned over because his hands were handcuffed and I kept asking the policemen, 'Please take the handcuffs off so I can turn him over' and they would not take the handcuffs off so I could see that both arms had been shot. I was trying to get the bleeding stopped. The nurse who had asked questions, she was there helping to. Neither of us would leave. We stayed and were tending to him. And so finally when the EMTs got there they finally convinced them that they had to get the handcuffs off."

    2. Evidence indicates bleeding could not be controlled until handcuffs were removed.
    Woodward remained predominantly face down for the entire time he was handcuffed. EMT statements indicate that the wound to his abdomen, through which he was bleeding heavily, was not treated until after the removal of the handcuffs. Thereafter firefighter Shawn Hammond recounted "... we got most of the bleeding under control ..."

    3. Officials' statements establish handcuffing lasted at least 10 minutes.
    According to Chief Martin, shots were reported fired at 10:14. The handcuffing occurred within a minute of the shots being fired. We know from several accounts that as soon as the handcuffs were removed, Woodward was rolled onto a backboard. Officer Frechette's statement states:

    "I arrived to the scene at 10:26 hours ... I assisted BFP Capt. Lynch bring in the stretcher into the church."

    Shawn Hammond's statement recounts his assembling the backboard and setting up the re-breather before the discussion between EMT Patno and an officer about removing the handcuffs. Even allowing only one minute for those events, the removal of the handcuffs would have occurred no earlier than 10:27, an elapsed time of 13 minutes.

    4. Long and inexplicable delays occurred in transporting Woodward to the hospital.
    Several eyewitness statements indicate that Woodward was taken out of the church soon after he was rolled onto the backboard, suggesting that he was in the ambulance by 10:30. Yet, according to Chief Martin, the ambulance was not reported en route to the hospital until 10:37, and according to officers Frichette and Gerard, who rode in the ambulance, it did not depart until 10:41. This period of over 10 minutes is difficult to account for given that IVs had already been set up even before the removal of handcuffs. The same officers give 10:47 and 10:48 as the time of arrival at Brattleboro Memorial Hospital, a travel time that would have allowed them to traverse the 3 mile distance well under the speed limit. The time of admission to the emergency room by hospital spokesperson Barbara Gentry was 10:59, leaving another over 10 minute period unaccounted for.

    5. Dramatic inconsistencies exist in official times for medical care events.
    Times described in the previous section are dramatic in their inconsistencies. The 10:37 versus 10:41 values collected for the time of departure from the church, and the 10:47 versus 10:59 values collected for the time of arrival at the hospital, raise serious questions about the actual timeline, the cause of the apparent delay in transport, and why the investigation did not produce an accurate timeline.

    B. Officials avoided collecting FADE.

    1. Eyewitnesses were not questioned about FADE.
    None of the eyewitnesses were questioned about the handcuffing and the role it played in Woodward's medical care. Dr. Woodring's recounting of these events was volunteered in response to a question about whether she saw the first shot.

    2. EMT reports containing no details of patient care were accepted as adequate.
    The official reports of the EMTs have very little detail about medical care. Shawn Hammond, a firefighter, gives more detail about medical care in his report than do any of the EMTs. The bulk of the EMT statements are taken up by claims about Woodward's talk of conspiracies and apologies to the "officer he assaulted".

    C. Attorney General Sorrell is concealing FADE.

    1. Sorrell is concealing FADE.
    Sorrell's report makes no mention of the long period of handcuffing, Police and EMT resistance to Dr. Woodring's presence, Dr. Woodring's refused requests that the handcuffs be removed, Officer Davies' explanation that Woodward was handcuffed because he had not been searched, nor the large amount of blood Woodward lost while his abdominal wound remained inaccessible.

    2. Sorrell hides FADE in findings of fact with misleading language.
    Sorrell's DETAILED FINDINGS OF FACT section states:
    "Medical assistance was rendered promptly, first by those present, then by Brattleboro Rescue," and "The handcuffs were removed when requested by rescue personnel." Sorrell falsely implies that medical assistance was not impeded, and that there was no resistance by officials to the removal of the handcuffs. In fact, medical assistance was not rendered promptly, as police refusal to remove the handcuffs caused Woodward to bleed uncontrollably for at least 10 minutes.

    3. Sorrell substitutes alleged confession for any information about medical care.
    The section of the Report titled "Post Shooting/Medical Assistance" contains no information of a medical nature, instead reiterating Woodward's alleged "assaulted" confession. While disclosing no information about medical care, the police refusal to allow treatment of Woodward's abdominal wound, or the long delays in transport to the hospital, the report recounts the alleged "assaulted" confession three different times, including in the DETAILED FINDINGS OF FACT.

    Conclusion

    A. Governor Dean possessed DSE and FADE

    At a fundraising event, Governor Dean accepted and volunteered to read the September 24th, 2002 "Justice For Woody Report" containing evidence of down shooting and denial of first aid. In an interview published in the Brattleboro Reformer, Dean indicated that he had read the report. "I've read one of the analyses of the [Sorrell's] report and I thought it was very good, it was by the friends of Woody."

    Governor Dean has acknowledged possessing evidence that Woodward was fired upon as he lay on the floor of the church, and that he was denied necessary and available medical care.

    B. Governor Dean and Attorney General Sorrell Conspired to Obstruct Justice

    The homicide investigation conducted by Vermont Attorney General William Sorrell consistently avoided collecting, analyzing, or pursuing the evidence that Woodward was shot after falling and then denied medical care.

    Sorrell characterized his investigation as "competent" and "diligent," while carefully hiding compelling evidence of police wrongdoing.

    Governor Dean was the only official above the Vermont Attorney General who was capable of initiating an independent, unbiased investigation.

    Governor Dean stated that he was "comfortable with" Sorrell's investigation, and refused repeated calls for an investigation independent of Vermont law enforcement.

    By refusing to pursue the evidence they possessed that Woodward was shot while down and then denied first aid, and instead putting forth a fraudulent homicide investigation, Governor Dean and William Sorrell conspired to obstruct the lawful application of justice in the matter of the police shooting of Robert Woodward.