Every time Harvey Updyke shows up, bizarre things seem to happen. The most recent head-scratcher was his apparent admission Tuesday to a student reporter from the Auburn Plainsman that he did indeed poison the iconic oak trees at Toomer's Corner.
Senior Editor Phillip Marshall
Updyke's trial on charges of poisoning the oaks in late 2010 has begun with jury selection at the Lee County Justice Center. He talked to Plainsman reporter Andrew awn during a break in the proceedings.
Whether calling Paul Finebaum's radio show or talking to a college student, Updyke is sometimes remorseful, sometimes defiant. He sometimes acts like a victim and sometimes revels in his strange celebrity.
When Updyke's lawyer tells him not to do interviews, he does them anyway, sometimes saying his life has been ruined and sometimes talking excitedly about the next Alabama football game. After a court appearance last year, he claimed he was attacked and beaten up at an Auburn convenience store. But there was no evidence to support his claim, no suspect, nothing.
Sadly, Updyke has become a caricature of a southern football fan, one so caught up in pulling for a school he never attended that he decided to poison historic trees in retaliation for something that never happened.
Adding to the carnival atmosphere, his wife has already stirred up enough of a ruckus to be asked by a deputy sheriff if she wanted to go to jail one day and had to be shushed during court proceedings by her husband and his lawyer the next.
The evidence is overwhelming against Updyke. Whether an aging man with significant health problems should go to jail, I don't know. But it would be good both sides of the Auburn-Alabama rivalry if he would exit the stage, never to be heard from again.
In the courtroom next door Tuesday, another chapter in a sad, sad story unfolded. Former Auburn wide receiver Antonio Goodwin was sentenced to 15 years in prison after being convicted of armed robbery. Three other former Auburn players are scheduled to go on trial in the fall.
From my dealings with Goodwin and what other people say about him, his participation was out of character. It was one bad, life-altering decision.
A sheriff in another Alabama county once told me: "Twenty percent of the people in jail are bad people. The other 80 percent are good people who made bad decisions."