VanPac News History

Copyright 1997 The New York Times Company  
The New York Times

 View Related Topics 

February 11, 1997, Tuesday, Late Edition - Final

SECTION: Section A; Page 18; Column 4; National Desk 

LENGTH: 370 words

HEADLINE: Judge Gives Letter Bomber Death Sentence




A man convicted of murdering a Federal judge with a mail Bomb was sentenced today in Alabama state court to die in the electric chair.

The man, Walter Leroy Moody, is already serving seven life sentences without parole for Federal convictions in a string of mail bombings.

Members of the family of the dead judge, Robert Vance, said they were satisfied with the sentence for Mr. Moody, who sent the package that killed Judge Vance as he opened it in his kitchen in 1989.

"It's nice to have this measure of finality to it," said Robert Vance Jr., adding that he planned to witness the execution.

Judge Vance's wife, Helen, was seriously injured by the Bomb but recovered and testified at Mr. Moody's trial. Prosecutors contended that Mr. Moody had acted out of frustration over being unable to overturn a 1972 conviction for possessing a pipe bomb.

"He was obsessed with getting that 1972 conviction overturned," said one prosecutor, Bob Morrow.

Mr. Moody, 61, of Rex, Ga., said that the evidence had been fabricated and that he would appeal.

Mr. Moody also has said that he had been denied counsel at his death penalty trial. And he filed papers, minutes before the sentencing, saying that a Bomb expert helping with his defense was an F.B.I. informer.

Prosecutors said Mr. Moody killed Judge Vance, of the United States Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit, and a civil rights lawyer, Robert Robinson of Savannah, Ga. The prosecutors also said he had threatened to kill 17 judges in letters declaring war on the judicial system.

One Bomb that was intercepted was sent to the 11th Circuit's headquarters in Atlanta. The other was destined for the N.A.A.C.P. office in Jacksonville, Fla.

Mr. Morrow said the Bomb sent to Mr. Robinson was intended to make a group like the Ku Klux Klan appear responsible for the judge's murder. At the time, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People thought it was the prime target of the Bomb campaign.

Mr. Moody, who calls himself a literary consultant, became a suspect after investigators found similarities between the devices used to kill Mr. Robinson and Judge Vance and the pipe Bomb that had led to his conviction in 1972.