Defense Tells of Brother’s Love in Hired Killing Case
The older of two brothers accused in the 1985 murder-for-hire of their parents may have acted alone in commissioning the killings, the younger brother’s attorney suggested to a Los Angeles Superior Court jury Wednesday.
“Love for his own brother” may have led Neil Woodman to hire professional assassins to shoot his parents as they returned to their Brentwood home after a post-Yom Kippur family gathering, Stewart Woodman’s attorney, Jay Jaffe, said in his opening statement.
“Neil Woodman from the time they were children was an overprotective brother and saw the stress that his brother was going through and this interpersonal conflict that Stewart had (with Gerald and Vera Woodman),” Jaffe contended.
But knowing of Stewart’s poor health, including heart problems and gout, “the last thing (Neil Woodman) wanted to do was involve his brother in a conspiracy,” Jaffe said.
Speaks to Reporters
During a recess, Jaffe was more specific, telling reporters: “To the extent that either of the Woodmans was involved (in the murders), the evidence will clearly indicate that it was Neil and not Stewart.”
Neil Woodman, 45, and two alleged hit men, Steven Homick, 49, and his brother, Robert, 38, will be tried later. Steven Homick is on Death Row in Carson City, Nev., after being convicted in May of a triple murder in Las Vegas.
Anthony Majoy, 51, described as a lookout in the case, is being tried with Stewart Woodman. A sixth defendant, Michael Dominguez, 29, pleaded guilty to two murder counts and was sentenced to 25 years to life.
Outside the courtroom, the older brother’s attorney, Gerald Chaleff, offered his theory of the case, saying that Homick and Dominguez had intended to rob the Woodman parents but wound up killing them instead.
“Neil Woodman had nothing to do with the murder of his parents. Period,” Chaleff said.
Prosecutors have alleged that Stewart Woodman, 39, was a “linchpin” in the murder plot. Deputy Dist. Atty. Patrick R. Dixon told jurors Tuesday that the brothers killed their mother in order to collect on a $506,000 insurance policy in her name and their father “just out of pure hatred.”
Agreeing with prosecutors that the brothers were deeply in debt at the time of the murders, Jaffe said the case has “very little to do with” the insurance policy because $500,000 represented only 11% of what they owed their creditors.
Painting a very unflattering portrait of his client, Jaffe acknowledged the prosecution’s contention that Stewart was given to gambling and spending money “foolishly.” And when his mother sided with his father in a dispute over the family plastics business, Stewart would tell people, “‘I hate them. I wish they were dead,”’ according to the lawyer.
"(He was) a big mouth and a big shot, but deep down he knew better,” Jaffe said.
Jaffe suffered a blow earlier Wednesday after the judge barred him from introducing evidence to support a key defense theory. The lawyer had hoped to show that Steven Homick--whom prosecutors describe as the shooter in the case--was acting as a “modern-day Robin Hood” when he allegedly killed the elder Woodmans.
To make that point, he planned to introduce evidence suggesting that Homick and Dominguez acted on their own initiative in carrying out a Las Vegas murder and two attempted murders--even though in each case there was a third party with a motive to commit the crime.
But Judge Candace Cooper excluded this evidence, saying it would be inconclusive and would unnecessarily lengthen the trial.