BRATTLEBORO >> The state is dragging its feet when it comes to agreeing to a court date in a civil lawsuit filed by a man who was released from prison after serving 18 years for the murder of his wife in a Dover condominium.
That's the gist of documents filed by Ian P. Carleton, of Sheehey Furlong & Behm P.C., who is representing the family of John Grega in the U.S. District Court for the District of Vermont. The documents were filed in opposition to the state's motion to extend the civil lawsuit's discovery schedule.
Carlton noted the departure of Vermont Deputy Attorney General Jonathan Rose from the four-member team assigned the case for the state, writing "he has done an excellent job in this case thus far (but) it does not follow, and is not persuasive to argue, that the discovery schedule should be doubled in light of his departure. Attorney (Kate) Gallagher, who will be assuming the role of lead defense counsel, has been engaged in this case for at least six months ..."
Grega was convicted of sexually assaulting and murdering his wife, Christine, while on a family vacation in Dover in 1994. But in 2011, the state vacated his conviction and recommended a retrial after DNA testing conducted as part of Vermont's Innocence Protection Act revealed the presence of unknown male DNA, as well as Grega's, on a piece of evidence taken from the scene.
In 2013, the state withdrew charges to allow for more testing and investigation. Grega filed a motion to dismiss the charges against him with prejudice, but the court denied that request. However, before the state could issue a decision on whether to re-charge Grega, he died in an automobile crash on Jan. 23, 2015, near his home on Long Island.
After his death, Grega's brother, Jeff Grega, took over the lawsuit as executor/plaintiff.
In August, a federal charge dismissed the town of Dover from the suit, as well as several claims against former State's Attorney Dan Davis, and three Vermont State Troopers. However, the judge upheld a claim that Davis and the investigators conspired to fabricate evidence that led to Grega's conviction.
On Dec. 15, attorneys for the state submitted a motion to extend the discovery schedule through June 2016, a motion Carlton opposes.
"(T)he State's request might have traction if the State had made a good faith effort, or any effort, to meet the existing discovery schedule," wrote Carl. "(T)here is no evidence the State has lifted a finger to prepare this case for trial."
In fact, noted Carlton, in contrast to his law firm's activities, the state has requested "zero fact depositions ... zero expert depositions ... and made zero expert disclosures ... What steps has the State taken to prepare its case? None."
The court's original timeline calls for a trial to start on Feb. 1.
"Every nuance of this case has been known to the defense for years. Nothing has changed. Nothing is new," wrote Carlton, who pointed out "the litany of delays the State has sought in this case over the years."
For example, he noted, it took the state more than eight months to complete DNA testing ordered by a Vermont Superior Court judge in 2011. "During the State's ill fated attempt to re-prosecute Mr. Grega, from August 21, 2012 to August 22, 2013, the State asked for four continuances ... all purportedly to support additional DNA testing that the State never even began to perform."
Two days before the court's deadline, the state dismissed a new case against Grega, wrote Carlton.
"The State said nothing about the dismissal earlier that day, despite the fact that the parties were sitting across from each other at an all day deposition in that about-to-be dismissed case."
It also took the state nearly five months to respond to Grega's civil suit, which was filed in late 2013.
"Now we are experiencing déjà vu all over again. How many times does the State need to ask for more time to understand the 'complexities' of this 20-year-old case? If another attorney leaves the AG's team, will all institutional knowledge once again be lost? ... Throughout the saga of John Grega's quest for justice, the State's delay tactics have been serial, prejudicial, and never supported by good cause."