Fatal Flaw 3
It is a murder mystery. Five people shot in a dark building on Christmas Eve: fourdead, one wounded in the abdomen, and a guilty man among them. A set piece fitfor Poirot, but with the horror of real death and real bloodlust.The killer was described as cunning. The proof of this was his convolutedmurder plot, developed over half a year. He was also depraved: he beat his lastvictim so violently as to fracture the brain pan within his skull, spraying bloodacross ceiling and walls and furniture.We are also told that a dogged police detective ferreted the truth out of thelabyrinth of clues. This feat was said to be a triumph of inspired procedure.I began to study the Winter Garden murders in early 1991, when the case wasfifteen years old. I interviewed the principals in the investigation, theprosecution, and the defense, and Tommy Zeigler himself. But recollection canbe faulty after so long a time. In important matters, memory tends to beconveniently (if innocently) self-serving. I decided that I could not in good faithrely on interviews to re-create the story; the events remain too controversial, andfeelings still run too high. I accepted the word of others when they spoke of theirimpressions or their state of mind. On controversial matters, where I have usedthe memory of others, it is noted. But whenever I could, I took the story fromwhat might be called the extended record: not only transcripts and briefs, butphotographs in evidence, affidavits, correspondence, and investigators’ work notes. Throughout my research I tried to resist conclusions. Althoughconclusions became inevitable, I based them solely on what the documentationshowed. So it is in this work. I withhold my opinions until the end, and whenthey do appear they are founded almost exclusively in the formal public record.That record consists of more than six thousand pages of sworn testimony andhundreds of supporting documents and photographs: an impressive artifact thattime has not altered. It is perfectly accessible, a story waiting to be told.Amazingly, the case has remained almost unknown, while less spectacularmurders--and less intriguing murderers--have become notorious.To at least one of the lawyers who became involved, the case became nothingless than a reflection on American life and American justice. It touches matters of race and intolerance and judicial ethics. It raises essential questions about howcrimes are investigated, how cases are prosecuted, how verdicts are obtained. Itilluminates the vast gulf between what is legal and what is just.