Burlington, Vermont - June 13, 2006
Choosing an execution site could be an issue this week when a death sentence is handed down in Vermont for the first time in more than 50 years. Since Vermont has no death penalty, the judge will select a state where Donald Fell will be executed. Presently 38 states have a death penalty and federal prosecutors are asking the judge to pick the one state that is least likely to delay execution for Fell.
Last summer, a federal jury of Vermonters recommended that Donald Fell be executed under federal law for car jacking and murder. Fell and an accomplice had already murdered two people when they carjacked Terri King in Rutland. They drove the 53-year-old grandmother to New York state in her car-- where they fatally beat her as she prayed for mercy.
This Friday, Fell will be officially sentenced to die by Federal Judge William Sessions. But Sessions will have to select a state for the execution because Vermont has no death penalty. Prosecutors have asked that it be in Indiana-- which has the death penalty and is also the site of the federal death chamber.
"And it's very likely that Fell will be sent to Indiana anyways. And all three federal executions that have been carried out since Timothy McVeigh have all taken place in Indiana," explained Vermont Law School Professor Cheryl Hanna.
She says there could be a delay if the judge were to choose New York State where Terri King was murdered.
"No one has actually executed in New York since the 1960s and it's just not even clear whether or not New York's in any capability of ever executing a death penalty at this stage, given it's own death penalty statute has been declared unconstitutional and there seems to be nothing in place to carry out a death penalty," said Hanna.
Hanna says the prosecutors may also be concerned about the execution site because Judge Sessions has indicated he is opposed to the death penalty.
"At least once during the Fell trial Judge Sessions declared the death penalty unconstitutional. The 2nd circuit then reversed that decision. Judge Sessions could sort of be activist in this case and sentence him to die in New York, with the hope that the sentence will never be carried out," added Hanna.
The prosecutors made their request for Indiana in a sentencing memorandum filed Monday. Defense lawyers have not yet filed a response.
Brian Joyce - Channel 3 News