November 29, 2015

Woodrow Karey: Anatomy of a Murder


On Friday night, Woodrow Karey, member of the Tabernacle of Praise Worship Center in Lake Charles Louisiana, walked into the church’s worship service and shot Pastor Ronald Harris, hitting him twice. As the pastor lay on the floor, Karey stood over him, simply watching him die. Onlookers reported that Karey seemed to take considerable satisfaction from this event. He eventually left the church, harming no one else, simply leaving a very scared and confused congregation. Pastor Ronald Harris did die from his wounds. Yet, this is where the event takes a very strange turn. Police have reported that Karey has no criminal background, at all. Church members report Karey was a deacon, though not active. After the shooting, Karey called police and turned himself in. So yes, it seems a very strange event, until you know the rest of the story.

It turns out that Karey’s wife filed rape charges with police 2 days earlier……against Pastor Harris. Likely because of said charges, Karey is only being charged with second-degree murder, NOT first-degree. The legal difference? Premeditation. It appears police don’t believe Karey was in full possession of his faculties when he went to the church. It appears they don’t believe he had a premeditated intent to kill Pastor Harris, or at least that something was mentally missing from being first-degree murder. Either way, this reminds me, rather exactly, of Otto Preminger’s 1959 movie, Anatomy of a Murder. This movie is based on the 1958 novel by John D. Voelker – pen name Robert Traver – which in turn is based on an actual court case Voelker was the defense attorney on.

In this Academy Award winning movie, James Stewart plays a lawyer who is asked to defend a man being tried for murder. This killer, US Lieutenant Frederick “Manny” Manion, explains to Stewart that he doesn’t feel guilty for killing a man who had raped his wife. In fact, Manny thought that he was within his legal bounds to kill the man, though he obviously wasn’t. After talking, Stewart agrees to take the case and defends Manny on grounds of temporary insanity. Stewart defends Manny successfully. In the real court case the movie is based off, the defendant was also found not-guilty, by reason of insanity. Rather, he was “seized by an irresistible impulse.”

Bringing this up isn’t justification for the killing, not at all. Taking a life in rage is never acceptable. Except in cases of self/family/national defense, it should always be tried as murder. Still, Woodrow has legal precedent for the case. It will depend on what he’s already told police, whether a psychological evaluation will work to his defense or not, and how he chooses to plea. Police have investigations to do into the rape charges as well, whether there was consent or not from Mrs. Karey.

One thing that can easily be said, however, is that if someone you know is facing intense pain, if they are taken by extreme rage or anger, or if you are going to give them horrible news, stay with them and keep them away from guns. The fastest way to see someone act out of character is to put them in a position of extreme emotional pain, where they feel helpless.

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