A Texas man has been convicted of the
murder of his parents in a trial where prosecutors used a homophobic
“gay is murder” strategy to ostensibly influence the jury, his
lawyer has said.
Brandon Dale Woodruff has been
convicted of the double homicide of Dennis and Norma Woodruff. The
couple was shot and stabbed in the neck inside their mobile home
outside Royse City, Texas on October 16, 2005. A family friend found
their bodies two days later. Police say there were no visible signs
of a forced entry.
Katherine Ferguson, one of Woodruff's
defense attorneys, says prosecutors strategically highlighted
Woodruff's sexual orientation in an effort to link being gay with
During Ferguson's closing arguments,
she told the jury that prosecutors had tried to “equate 'gay' with
“They certainly wanted to ram that
point down the jury's throat every moment they could,” Ferguson
told gay weekly the Dallas
“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 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.”
Woodruff, 22, was convicted on March 20
and sentenced to a lifetime behind bars.
Ferguson says prosecutors sought to
introduce salacious gay-related details of Woodruff's personal life
into the trial to prejudice the jury, including accounts that he once
starred in gay adult films and danced at male strip clubs. Defense
lawyers managed to keep out those details.
But the judge allowed other details to
be introduced, such as reports that Woodruff was on the verge of
coming out to his parents and that he partied till 2AM the night his
parents died at Station 4, a Dallas gay nightclub.
Woodruff, a 19-year-old Abilene
Christian University freshman at the time of the murders, was
collared by police eight days after the incident.
Prosecutors allege he killed his
parents for money. They contend the youth was desperate for cash,
maxed out on credit card debt and despondent over flunking college.
Woodruff secretly despised his parents and killed them to gain an
insurance settlement, they argued.
Woodruff maintains he's innocent.
Defense attorneys argued that cell phone and toll booth records place
him too far from the crime scene to have been the murderer.
As he was being escorted by a cordon of
deputies out of the courtroom in handcuffs, his grandmother Bonnie
Woodruff told him: “I'll always love you. I'll always be there for
“I'm not guilty,” he replied. An
appeal has been filed.