Attorney for Woodruff has already filed appeal, says prosecutors tried to use defendant’s orientation to prejudice jury
GREENVILLE —After shooting and stabbing his parents to death on the evening of Oct. 16, 2005, Brandon Dale Woodruff traveled with friends to Station 4 in Dallas and partied until 2 a.m., according to evidence presented during Woodruff’s capital murder trial.
It was a minor detail prosecutors sought to emphasize — the fact that Woodruff went to a gay nightclub — as part of their broader strategy to highlight his sexual orientation, according to Katherine Ferguson , one of Woodruff’s defense attorneys.
Ferguson said she was successful in keeping some gay-related material out of Woodruff’s trial, including reports that he’d danced at male strip clubs and starred in hard-core gay pornography under an assumed name.
But other details, such as claims that Woodruff was preparing to come out to his parents at the time of the murders, couldn’t be avoided. And during her closing arguments, Ferguson said she told the jury that prosecutors had tried to "equate ‘gay’ with ‘murderer.’"
"They certainly wanted to ram that point down the jury’s throat every moment they could," Ferguson told Dallas Voice this week. "They were hoping that this would be a small-town East Texas jury, and they would be so blinded by that issue that they would not sit back and examine the facts of the case. My whole attitude was, I didn’t really care who he slept with. My concern was, did he murder his parents? And could the state prove it beyond a reasonable doubt? And I don’t feel the state did, but obviously the jury disagreed."
Following a three-week trial, Woodruff, now 22, was convicted of capital murder on Friday, March 20 and sentenced to life in prison. Prosecutors had waived the death penalty in the case.
Woodruff reportedly maintains his innocence, and Ferguson said she’s already filed a notice of appeal.
Special prosecutors Adrienne McFarland and Ralph Guerrero, from the Texas Attorney General’s Office, didn’t return a phone call seeking comment this week. The AG’s office had been assigned to the case after the Hunt County District Attorney’s Office was recused after violating Woodruff’s rights by taping his jailhouse phone calls.
Woodruff, then a 19-year-old freshman at Abilene Christian University, was arrested eight days after his parents, Dennis and Norma, were murdered inside their home near Royse City.
Prosecutors allege that Woodruff, who’d maxed out his credit cards and was struggling in school, killed his parents to gain an insurance settlement.
Woodruff was a former FFA president who’d been voted as having the most school spirit during his senior year of high school. But acquaintances told authorities he also had a darker side, killing animals that were in his care and physically abusing his sister.
Woodruff reportedly was facing a last chance with his parents to improve his grades or return home from Abilene Christian and attend community college. Authorities said he secretly despised his parents and never wanted to live in the Royse City home, where they were in the process of moving from Heath.
E-mail [email protected]
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition March 27, 2009.