Jennifer Barrett
Jennifer Barrett

BENNINGTON -- A local prosecutor is seeking the state's attorney job in Orleans County.

Jennifer Barrett, 27, of Dorset, started working as a deputy attorney at the Bennington County State's Attorney's Office in the fall of 2011. A Brattleboro native, she had been working as a part-time deputy attorney in the Orleans office for six months prior to being hired as a full time prosecutor in Bennington.

Barrett currently handles all of the domestic assault cases that come through Bennington County.

"It is a case load that I'm really passionate about, so it worked out that I was able to take all of the cases," she said.

Barrett said she focuses holding domestic offenders accountable for their actions and making sure as much evidence as possible is ready if and when those cases go to trial.

She studied law at University of New Hampshire School of Law. Barrett said she has always been attracted to the legal profession, and got an undergraduate degree in computer and digital forensics knowing it would help her future career.

"I think Orleans County needs a change, and I think that I can make a difference up there," she said. "I am a passionate prosecutor. There are some prosecutors who won't bring cases to trial that aren't clear winners, and that's not my mentality. If a case is complicated and the evidence is complex I'm happy to bring it to trial and have the jury decide; this is if I'm sure a crime was committed."

Barrett said she would bring many of the same philosophies used in Bennington to Orleans County, as the two places face similar issues.

"There's a heroin epidemic up there," she said. "They have the same issues with domestic violence and mental health cases that we do."

The drug trade, especially in heroin and other opiates, has been a widely discussed topic in Vermont and Bennington.

"There need to be strict jail sentences for heroin traffickers and heroin dealers, for both deterrence and punishment to show people who want to bring drugs into the community that it won't be tolerated in Orleans County," Barrett said.

She said while gray areas exist, there are some clear cases where a person is bringing heroin into the state to sell, and clear cases where a person is in the thrall of addiction and needs treatment. For those that fall in between, a balance can be found with punishment and rehabilitation.

Barrett said her age belies her experience.

"I think it's obvious, I'm much younger than the other people running," she said. "It's true, but I have an incredible amount of experience."

In Orleans County she tried two cases before a jury, and in Bennington has taken over 25 to trial, many of them involving serious felonies such as kidnapping and aggravated domestic assault. "It's important for people to look beyond the fact that I'm 27 years old and look at what my experience is in doing jury trials," she said.

Given that Orleans County is at the opposite end of the state, Barrett has some traveling to do for her campaign.

"I think there's an obvious disadvantage to being down here and campaigning up there, but I'm lucky that I have the support the State's Attorney (Erica Marthage) here who's allowed me to run in another county and keep my job, which is important," she said.

Barrett has been traveling to Orleans County every weekend, has a campaign Facebook page, and said she has the support of many in the community including a few state representatives and the Newport police chief.

Contact Keith Whitcomb Jr. at kwhitcomb@benningtonbanner.com or follow him on Twitter @KWhitcombjr.