Lawyers preparing for death penalty trial in Vt.
MONTPELIER -- Lawyers in the case of a Vermont man facing the federal death penalty on charges he sexually assaulted and killed his niece five years ago were given another week Monday to agree on jury-selection procedures for the trial set for later this year.
In a filing in U.S. District Court in Burlington, defense attorneys for Michael Jacques said they had significantly narrowed their differences with prosecutors about what questions would be asked of potential jurors who will hear the case.
They two sides had been ordered to reach an agreement by Monday on those jury selection issues. The defense was also given an extra week to present any motions to have the judge suppress evidence that will be presented at the trial, expected to begin in September, although no specific date has been set yet.
In its filing, the defense attorneys said prosecutors were not objecting to their request.
"The parties assure the court that they have conferred regarding jury-selection issues and have significantly narrowed their areas of disagreement. Both sides believe that a seven-day extension will result in further narrowing of differences to be presented to the court for its resolution," Monday’s filing said. "The relief sought will have no impact on the trial date."
Neither prosecutors nor defense attorneys returned calls Monday seeking comment.
Vermont Law School professor Cheryl Hanna said the motions being made now are typical at this stage of a case.
"Finally, finally, it looks like we’re actually going to bring it to trial this fall," Hanna said.
Jacques, 47, who was a convicted sex offender prior to his arrest, is charged with kidnapping with death resulting and two child pornography counts in the slaying of his niece Brooke Bennett. He has pleaded not guilty.
Prosecutors say Jacques drugged, sexually assaulted and killed Brooke after her June 25, 2008, disappearance from a Randolph convenience store.
Prosecutors say Jacques used a 14-year-old girl he had been sexually abusing since she was 9 to lure Brooke to his home for a pool party. She was found dead a week later, her body buried in a shallow grave near Jacques’ home.
He is being held without bail at a federal detention center in New York as he awaits trial.
Vermont has no state death penalty, but Jacques is being tried under federal law. His trial will be the second death penalty trial held before U.S. District Court Judge William K. Sessions III.
In 2005, Donald Fell was found guilty and sentenced to death for abducting a North Clarendon woman as she arrived for work at a Rutland supermarket. She was later killed in New York state.
Fell is currently on death row in Terre Haute, Ind.
TALK TO US
If you'd like to leave a comment (or a tip or a question) about this story with the editors, please email us. We also welcome letters to the editor for publication; you can do that by filling out our letters form and submitting it to the newsroom.