Lawyers in 2nd death penalty case seek to move trial
Updated 5:44 pm, Wednesday, October 19, 2016
BURLINGTON, Vt. (AP) — Defense lawyers for a man who is facing his second federal death penalty trial are using poll results to argue that the trial be moved, saying a survey they commissioned shows a majority of Vermont residents have heard of the case and most of them believe the man is guilty.
Lawyers for Donald Fell, 36, included the results of the survey in a 119-page filing Wednesday, asking U.S. District Court Judge Geoffrey Crawford to move the trial because of extensive publicity. Currently, it is scheduled for early next year in Rutland.
Fell is charged with abducting Terry King, 53, of North Clarendon when she arrived for work at a Rutland supermarket, then killing her. His 2005 conviction and death sentence were overturned due to juror misconduct.
According to the filing, Castleton University's polling institute surveyed more than 1,200 Vermont residents and found that more than half had heard of the 2000 murder case and three-quarters of them believe he is guilty.
"There has been 15 years of coverage (or more) of the Fell case," defense lawyers said in the filing.
An expert cited by the defense who has reviewed change-of-venue requests said the publicity that has followed the Fell case "has been the most inflammatory he has seen outside of the Boston Marathon and Oklahoma City Bombing cases."
Over the years there have been more than 630 articles about the Fell case in local newspapers "many of them repeating highly inflammatory and prejudicial themes: admissions of guilt (and) alleged confessions," the filing said.
Earlier, the judge refused the defense request to keep the filing under seal. The judge didn't elaborate on that decision.