They say the results of questionnaires filled out by potential jurors show that the Rutland area skews too much toward the death penalty.
“The court has little enthusiasm for a series of short extensions,” the judge wrote in ordering a new date of Sept. 5. Jury selection had been set for Monday.
A state employee was fired after it came to light that he had misbehaved as a juror in the Donald Fell murder trial. The VSEA takes up his case.
If the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals agrees to review either of the lower court decisions, it could delay Fell’s retrial, which is scheduled to begin in late March.
The defense could argue that their client is entitled to a new trial because the jury selection process was unfair.
A judge found that Fell’s interests outweigh the attorney-client privilege of his former murder co-defendant, whom the defense is seeking to paint as the ringleader.
The defense said publicity about the case had made it impossible to get a fair trial in Rutland or elsewhere in Vermont. But the judge pointed to a survey showing impartial jurors can be found.
The defense wants to appeal a judge’s ruling letting the death penalty stand as constitutional in advance of Donald Fell’s retrial.
The issue of refugee resettlement divided the small city. Meanwhile, the Rutland Herald ran into financial difficulty, and a judge weighed the constitutionality of the death penalty.
U.S. District Judge Geoffrey Crawford listed a number of flaws associated with the application of the death penalty but said it wasn’t in his power to overrule the U.S. Supreme Court.
Defense attorneys say information about childhood neglect and abuse may serve as mitigating evidence in the trial.
A defense expert said more than 600 articles have been written about Donald Fell, many using words like “brutal” and “horrible.” The government says that doesn’t mean an impartial jury can’t be found.
A judge ruled that having fetal alcohol spectrum disorder doesn’t automatically mean a person qualifies for a constitutional ban on executing those with intellectual disability.
The defense says that “pre-judgment of Mr. Fell’s guilt is very high” in Rutland. His attorneys want the case tried out of state.