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Defense attorneys protest transfer of trials due to pandemic

December 11, 2021 GMT

MONTPELIER, Vt. (AP) — Several defense attorneys in Vermont are protesting the transferring of jury trials out of counties with courthouses that are closed due to the pandemic.

The Caledonian Record reports that the attorneys say the constitutional rights of defendants are being violated because they will not get a trial in their communities by a jury of their peers, and citizens and communities in four counties are being disenfranchised.

The administrative order that changed court procedures due to the pandemic expired in 2020, but the judiciary also declared courthouses in Essex, Orleans, Grand Isle and Windsor counties were unsafe for jury trials due to their size and ventilation issues.

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Windsor County defense attorney Cabot Teachout argued that the opinions and political views of jurors differ substantially between Vermont counties.

The judiciary plans to solve the air quality issue at the Orleans County Courthouse by installing a heating coil in the building’s ventilation system, but until then criminal trials will take place at the Caledonia County Courthouse.

The defense attorneys’ petition asks the judiciary to choose alternate courtroom venues within the counties until the courthouses are deemed safe, such as auditoriums, theaters or conference centers.

The judiciary, which is being represented by the state attorney general, has until February to respond to the petition.