VanPac News History

Copyright 1992 The Atlanta Constitution  
The Atlanta Journal and Constitution

August 13, 1992


LENGTH: 372 words

HEADLINE: Bomber's odd testimony spurs appeal His lawyer calls for another trial



Mail bomber Walter Leroy Moody Jr. had no constitutional right to "commit legal suicide" in a Minnesota courtroom a year ago, his lawyer argued Wednesday in Atlanta.

Moody, now 58, was convicted in federal court in St. Paul on Aug. 21, 1991, of the mail Bomb murders of 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Robert Vance in Alabama and Savannah Alderman Robert E. Robinson.

In the 11th Circuit Courthouse in Atlanta, where another of Moody's bombs was intercepted in 1989 before it could be opened, his court- appointed attorney argued that his client deserves another trial.

The 11th Circuit has disqualified itself from involvement in the Moody case, and three judges from the 4th Circuit Court in Richmond, Va., heard the appeals.

Defense lawyer Edward D. Tolley of Athens based his appeal chiefly on the contention that U.S. District Judge Edward Devitt, who heard the case in St. Paul on a change of venue, should have refused to allow Moody to testify in his own defense.

The accused's right to testify at his own trial is a cornerstone of American justice, but Mr. Tolley argued - admittedly without precedent - that it should not have been applied to Moody.

Mr. Tolley said he urged Judge Devitt, who has since died, not to agree to Moody's demand to testify. He said he told the judge that at worst Moody might perjure himself and at best that his testimony would "be so preposterous and outrageous" that it would destroy his case.

The prediction came true.

"We may not have had the best case in the world," Mr. Tolley said, "but he undid it in the first hour on the witness stand. His testimony was so bad," Mr. Tolley said, that the courtroom was laughing about it.

On the witness stand, Moody rambled for hours about odd scientific experiments, including an attempt to achieve cold fusion.

When the prosecutor challenged this, Moody insisted that he was a genuine scientist, confiding that, "When I was in college, I tried to clone a rabbit."

Moody, of Rex, Ga., who is now serving seven life sentences plus 400 years in the federal prison at Marion, Ill., was not present at the hearing in Atlanta. He is expected to face a death penalty trial in Alabama next spring in the slaying of Judge Vance.