The Investigation and Trial of a Mail Bomber Obsessed with Destroying Our Justice System
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 The true-crime tale of Walter Leroy Moody, convicted of killing a federal judge in Birmingham, Ala., and an NAACP lawyer in Savannah, Ga., with letter bombs. Though WSB-TV (Atlanta) reporter Winne sets some scenes well (especially the Dec. 16, 1989, killing of Judge Robert Vance and the death two days later of lawyer Robbie Robinson), he puts most of his energy into exhaustively recounting the investigation of the case. Thus we get mini-profiles of several investigators, blow-by- blow descriptions of their maneuvers, and some cutesy language (``a burgeoning bustle of badges''). Agents find that the type on the label for one bomb matches that of a tear-gas package previously sent to an NAACP office, as well as a ``malicious missive'' sent to news outlets denouncing the US Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit. The bomber, announcing his group as ``Americans For a Competent Federal Judicial System,'' sends a racist letter to a local TV news anchorwoman decrying civil rights rulings. Another agent thinks a defused bomb recalls the style of a 1972 bomb attributed to Moody. So agents begin gathering evidence against Moody, a schemer who ran a vanity press and, according to Winne, was ``a litigious lobo who went to court more than many lawyers.'' Moody's young second wife, Susan, a battered woman, plea-bargains to conspiracy and cooperates, explaining how Moody made her purchase bomb-making materials. Moody, against the advice of his attorneys, rejects a mental-illness defense and testifies that his chemical purchases were an attempt to replicate ``cold fusion.'' Convicted of murder and several other charges, Moody is serving a life prison term. Winne, for all his energy, does too little to probe the most interesting question of the case: What made Moody so mad? Not a good advertisement for books by television reporters. (16 pages b&w photos, not seen)

Pub Date: March 1st, 1995
ISBN: 0-02-630240-3
Page count: 288pp
Publisher: Scribner
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1st, 1995


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by Mark Winne