Burlington, Vermont - June 16, 2006
For the first time in nearly a half century, a judge handed down a death sentence in a Vermont courtroom. Donald Fell was sentenced to die for the 2000 kidnapping and murder of a Clarendon woman-- one of three murders he committed in less than 24 hours.
Nearly 80 people packed into the courtroom to hear the sentence pronounced. Many were friends and relatives of murder victim Terri King. But the spectators also included five of the jurors whose verdict condemned Fell-- and they spoke with the victim's family for the first time as they all arrived to attend the sentencing hearing. There were hugs and tears as jurors explained to the family and to us it took only 45 minutes of deliberation to decide that Fell deserved to die.
"I wanted to be here in person to hear what he had to say," explained Dave Noyes, of Barre, who sat on the jury.
In court, members of the King family had their say, explaining why they believed Fell deserved to die. They said he had destroyed their family and ruined so many lives with his animal brutality.
Then, speaking in a near whisper and never looking at King's family, Fell addressed the court saying, "The words are inadequate. I truly am sorry for my crime. What I did was horrible and wrong. I know the wounds will never heal. If it comes down to it in the end that I do die, I understand that it's no less than what I deserve. I truly am sorry."
Judge William Sessions then sentenced Fell to be executed in the state of Indiana in the federal death chamber there, unless after all appeals the death penalty is back on the books in New York State where King was murdered.
As they left the courthouse, King's family said the sentencing was an important milestone.
"We're just glad that we're one step closer to having final justice for my sister," said Barbara Tuttle. "I mean Donald's going to Indiana, he's going to be sitting on death row, he'll be out of his little 6x8 cell for only one hour a day for the rest of his life and exactly where he deserves to be."
Both the King family and the jurors were unmoved by Fell's 11th hour apology in court.
"Had he been sorry. He would have gotten up there in the penalty phase and said so," said John Lepore, Northfield, who also sat on the jury. "That was one of the factors that weighed strongly against him. He had no remorse and the jurors knew it."
Authorities say Fell will be transferred to the federal death row cellblock in Terre Haute, Indiana where he will be held awaiting imposition of the death sentence by lethal injection.
But the execution may not happen soon. First, all of his appeals have to be exhausted and that could take at least five to ten years according to legal experts.
Brian Joyce - Channel 3 News