BENNINGTON — The court has denied an inmate’s request to have his child sexual assault case thrown out due to the lack of a speedy trial. He is waiting to be retried once local jury trials are permitted to restart following the coronavirus outbreak.
Joshua Boyer, 34, of Bennington, has been detained since April 2018 on three felony charges. They are: repeated aggravated sexual assault on a child, aggravated domestic assault and aggravated sexual assault on a child resulting in serious injury.
All the charges carry a potential penalty of life in prison, according to court documents. He is being held without bail.
Boyer is accused of repeatedly sexually assaulting a teenage girl at a Bennington home between the summer of 2017 and the spring of 2018. In one incident, Boyer allegedly strangled the girl, whom he knew, when she threatened to tell on him.
He went on trial in November of last year, but it ended in a mistrial because of juror misconduct.
Before the coronavirus pandemic hit Vermont in March, Boyer’s new trial had been scheduled for late spring. After the onset of the public health crisis — which has led to a pause in jury trials — Boyer has been asking for his retrial to be held.
During this waiting period, Boyer said he became infected with the COVID-19 coronavirus disease.
“Inmates contracted the virus while awaiting trial. I’m one of those inmates,” he wrote in a Nov. 21 letter to the Banner. “I have asthma, and could have died.”
RIGHT TO A SPEEDY TRIAL
Last month, the Bennington Superior criminal court held a hearing on Boyer’s request to have his case dismissed if he couldn’t be granted his constitutional right to a speedy trial.
His lawyer’s arguments included the nearly three years Boyer has been detained, their lack of face-to-face meetings because of the jail’s pandemic policies and his being placed in solitary quarantine for weeks after getting COVID-19.
“At what point is it a speedy trial violation that we are not able to have jury trials in Bennington County, specifically in Mr. Boyer’s case?” defense attorney Kate Lamson told Judge Cortland Corsones on Nov. 10.
In a Nov. 18 written decision, Corsones denied Boyer’s request for dismissal, ruling that his speedy trial right has not been violated.
The judge acknowledged that Boyer has been detained for a significant period, but said the pre-pandemic delays have been due to the complexity of his case rather than delay tactics by the state.
Delays due to the pandemic, Corsones wrote, were neither intentional or unjustified.
The judge said also that Boyer has been asserting his right to a speedy trial only after the Vermont Supreme Court suspended jury trials because of the public health crisis. And he hasn’t shown how the trial delay has impaired his defense.
Once the state Supreme Court authorizes jury trials to restart, “this case is number one on the court’s trial list,” Corsones wrote.
EXPECTED TRIALS IN 2021
Last week, the Vermont Judiciary announced that local courts can hold criminal jury trials after the New Year — with permission from state court officials.
There’s no information yet on when Boyer’s retrial could be held, or if the Bennington criminal courthouse is deemed ready.
Factors that will be considered include the current course of the coronavirus pandemic, whether the courthouse has enough space to enable trial participants to socially distance and if there’s enough staffing for a trial.
Boyer is detained at the Marble Valley correctional facility in Rutland.