BRATTLEBORO -- Justice for Woody will hold a rally downtown this afternoon, where activists will continue demands for Gov. Howard Dean to appoint independent investigators to review Robert Woodward's death.
But Dean is not likely to re-open the case, according to his spokeswoman, Sue Allen.
"Governor Dean has been reluctant to do that in the past and has a great deal of faith in the attorney general," Allen told the Reformer Friday. "He read the report and was comfortable with the findings. I think he would be reluctant to appoint another investigation at this point."
Nevertheless, Justice for Woody representatives show no sign of giving up. According to member Mary Rives, the group is pursuing the petition in good faith, "trusting that (Dean) will do the right thing."
"We don't know that he's actually done his homework, so to speak, and gone through all of the evidence left out of the report," Rives added.
Justice for Woody is comprised of friends and family of Woodward, as well as locals expressing concern over the police department's use of force. The group continues to ask Dean to appoint independent investigators, and will gather at the intersection of High and Main Streets today from noon to 2 p.m. to gather signatures for a petition calling on Dean to act.
In question is the investigation into Woodward's death; on Dec. 2 Brattleboro police officers Terrance Parker and Marshall Holbrook shot Woodward after responding to a call at the All Souls Unitarian church in West Brattleboro. Woodward had entered the church during its morning service, claiming government persecution, brandishing a knife and asking for sanctuary -- acting "psychotic," according to some witnesses. He was shot approximately one minute after the officers entered the building.
Sorrel cleared Marshall and Parker of any wrongdoing after a state police investigation. The officers have been back on the beat for nearly two months now.
But Justice for Woody decries the investigation, saying that Sorrel used eyewitness statements that corroborated a particular version of the incident, and discarded other accounts. The group has held multiple vigils memorializing Woodward and rallied downtown May 25 with its initial demand that Dean intervene and call for another, independent, investigation.
The group will appear at the intersection once again today to gather signatures for a petition demanding action.
The petition raises five points, alleging that:
* the investigation was conducted soley by Vermont law enforcement,
* soon after the shooting, some law enforcement officials publicly defended the police officer's actions,
* the investigation pursued evidence supporting police and shied away from evidence challenging their actions,
* Sorrel's report included "every shred of evidence" that supports self-defense, "while completely omitting the much larger body of evidence that contradicts the conclusion," and,
* the report treats police claims as fact despite potentially contradictory eyewitness testimony.
According to Justice for Woody member Stephen Monroe Tomczak, the purpose of the group's now-routine rallies is to keep the issue alive in Brattleboro and address what Tomczak calls an endemic national problem.
"We want to reach out as much as possible to the residents of Brattleboro and Vermont to promote solidarity with all those who are outraged by excessive use of force by authorities," he said.
"While each case is unique, Woody's case is not isolated or exceptional."