St. Johnsbury attorney tries to get 34 court cases thrown out

Local News

A Vermont attorney is trying to get nearly three dozen court cases thrown out. He says there’s a lack of a speedy trial because of the pandemic. The evidence was introduced on a virtual hearing today.

Vermont attorney David Sleigh is trying to get 34 cases thrown out. He said the long wait is impacting his clients.

Katlin Parenteau has a pending criminal charge in the Orleans criminal division since 2019. She said the long wait for a court date is taking a toll.  

“Not only my professional life, but my mental state,” Parenteau said. “I had to go to see a counselor to try to help recover from this altercation.” 

Christian Goulet is another client. He said he’s been waiting for four years for his criminal case to be resolved. Because of this he couldn’t join the army. 

“They do a background check on pending felonies and I wasn’t allowed in the military,” Goulet said. 

The founder of Burke Law, a criminal defense firm in Burlington, Jessica Burke said this is long overdue. 

“You have a constitutional right to a speedy trial,” Burke said. “There isn’t an exception that says in a pandemic you give up your right to a speedy trial.” 

Burke has clients who have been waiting for trails for over three years. 

“Just having a charge hanging over your head for multiple years really diminishes your ability to move forward with your life,” Burke said.  

Constitutional Law Professor Jared Carter said this is going to be an uphill battle, and thinks they are good claims to make.  

“So the court usually goes back and forth and asserts that the fault for the delay is either on the state or the defendant, and here we had a global pandemic which is no ones fault,” Carter said.  

Carter said if the delays continue it becomes harder for the state to justify.  

“In light of the fact that the governor has ended the state of emergency, and so on what basis can the state continue to delay these trials,” Carter said. “It gets harder for the state to be successful if this continues.”  

It’s not clear how many of the cases, if any, have been thrown out. From what we heard, there are some documents pending that need to be reviewed.

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