While reading Bob Stannard’s column entitled "Rights and Wrongs" in Saturday’s Bennington Banner I was a bit surprised not to see more information about current Vermont Law regarding one’s right to defend him- or herself from someone trying to harm them or others. Earlier this month I sent Bob some of the information he refers to in his column. Not being privy to the conversations Bob had with the Attorney General, it is not clear if the AG has some suggested changes to current Vermont law.

Currently the Senate Judiciary Committee is working on a revised version of S.295, a bill introduced by several of us dealing with Vermont’s substance abuse problems. That bill was the subject of the governor’s State of the State address and we have taken several suggestions from the governor and his staff to enhance the bill. The current version of the bill contains, among other changes, provisions that would provide an additional five years in prison to the current 25-year maximum for anyone who breaks into an occupied dwelling and carries a dangerous or deadly weapon. In addition, the bill provides for an additional 15 years if the person or persons uses or threatens to use force. If the Attorney General or anyone else for that matter has suggested changes to current law or the revised version of S. 295 we will welcome them.

We all want to feel safe in our homes. We should have a right to defend ourselves; but keep in mind the fatal shooting of Trayvon Martin by George Zimmerman. I doubt few if any Florida lawmakers envisioned, at the time, how the law they wrote might be used.

Current Vermont Law and some of the case law on the subject follows;

"Under Title 13, § 2305 of the Vermont Statutes, a person may only use deadly force against another in three situations:

(1) In the just and necessary defense of his or her own life or the life of his or her husband, wife, parent, child, brother, sister, master, mistress, servant, guardian or ward; or

(2) In the suppression of a person attempting to commit murder, sexual assault, aggravated sexual assault, burglary or robbery, with force or violence; or

(3) In the case of a civil officer; or a military officer or private soldier when lawfully called out to suppress riot or rebellion, or to prevent or suppress invasion, or to assist in serving legal process, in suppressing opposition against him or her in the just and necessary discharge of his or her duty.

In Vermont v. Wheelcock, the VT Supreme Court said:

Our case law requires that self-defense is "just and necessary" when the defendant’s belief of imminent peril and of the need to repel that peril with deadly force is reasonable. The right of self-defense does not require that one be actually assaulted, so long as the defendant’s belief that he is in danger is founded on reasonably perceived circumstances.

DICK SEARS

State Senator, Bennington County & Wilmington

Chair Senate Judiciary Committee

North Bennington

A vote for one is a vote for two or three

Vermont democracy is less than we believe: Crafty candidates can hijack our right to elect whom we choose.

Vermont law is silent about one candidate running for, winning and holding two or more seats on the same school or select board.

Elected to more than one seat, a winner does not have to resign the additional seats, presumably casting a vote for each.

A winner can choose to resign the additional seats, joining fellow board members in appointing successors.

A candidate for multiple seats who has just one opponent for a seat can withdraw that candidacy at the deadline, allowing the "opponent" to run unopposed as the candidate’s appointee.

Should Vermont legislators simply prohibit a candidate’s taking out nominating petitions for election to more than one seat on the same school or select board?

HOWARD FAIRMAN

Vernon