Vt. Case Goes to U.S. Supreme Court - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Vt. Case Goes to U.S. Supreme Court

Michael Brillon Michael Brillon

Washington, D.C. - October 1, 2008

A career criminal in Vermont was set free after a controversial ruling by the Vermont Supreme Court. Now the United States Supreme Court will decide if that ruling was justified.

In a split decision earlier this year, Vermont justices decided Michael Brillon did not get his constitutional right to a speedy trial. The Vermont Supreme Court threw out the domestic assault conviction and a 12 to 20 year prison term for Michael Brillon. The court determined that it took too long-- three years-- for his case to be tried. The Vermont Supreme Court determined his constitutional rights to a speedy trial were violated.

The split-court decision drew criticism and an appeal from the Bennington County State's Attorney. Erica Marthage claims the lion's share of the delays were caused by Brillon.

"This offender was considered very violent and very high risk," she said. "He was a very difficult client, frequently argumentative with his council and the judge. A number of attorneys he threatened or couldn't work with."

Marthage appealed to the United States Supreme Court. Now the high court has agreed to hear the case.

It's unusual considering just 80 or so cases will go to the U.S. Supreme Court out of thousands and thousands of requests each year.

Four of the nine justices must agree to take it up.

"I suspect in this case that at least four of those justices think that there was something wrong with this decision," said legal expert Cheryl Hanna, of the Vermont Law School.

Hanna says the U.S. Supreme Court will decide if the Vermont court got the speedy trial law wrong, if the law needs clarification, and what responsibility the defendant had in delaying his own trial. But Hanna says it has also become a case about victims' rights and one that will be watched across the country.

"It seemed he was using the criminal justice system to further harass and abuse his victim. This case isn't just important here in Vermont, it's important nationally for the hundreds of cases which defendants may be delaying trials asking attorneys to question victims further to possibly harass that victim," Hanna said.

Hanna and Marthage say the Vermont ruling has had consequences -- giving defendants incentive to try to game the system to get their cases thrown out.

"We've already seen a flurry of people referring to Brillon and why their charges should be dismissed," said Marthage. "To me, what the state is arguing is justified or I wouldn't have gone this far with it."

The U.S. Supreme Court will hear the case early next year. Its decision will impact how similar cases are handled across the country, what a speedy trial means, and if a defendant has a right to a speedy trial if he or she tries to delay it.

Cheryl Hanna says State's Attorney Erica Marthage has a good chance of winning and that the law is on her side.

If Marthage wins, it means Michael Brillon goes back to jail.

Darren Perron - WCAX News

  • Local NewsMore>>

  • Snowmobile season officially ends

    Snowmobile season officially ends

    Wednesday, April 16 2014 1:08 AM EDT2014-04-16 05:08:12 GMT
    Today marks the end of the snowmobile season. The Vermont Association of Snow Travelers reports a banner year with the best riding conditions in years. VAST says next year snowmobilers will be able toMore >>
    Today marks the end of the snowmobile season. The Vermont Association of Snow Travelers reports a banner year with the best riding conditions in years. VAST says next year snowmobilers will be able toMore >>
  • A big honor for a Burlington teen

    A big honor for a Burlington teen

    Wednesday, April 16 2014 1:06 AM EDT2014-04-16 05:06:26 GMT
    16-year-old Yusuf Abdi was named 2014 Vermont Boys & Girls Club Youth of the Year. He received the award during a celebration at the State House today. Judges called him extraordinary for his age, articulate,More >>
    16-year-old Yusuf Abdi was named 2014 Vermont Boys & Girls Club Youth of the Year. He received the award during a celebration at the State House today.More >>
  • Blood donor honored for his contributions

    Blood donor honored for his contributions

    Wednesday, April 16 2014 1:04 AM EDT2014-04-16 05:04:54 GMT
    There are your average blood donors who might give once or twice a year and then there is Frank Sklenarik. He's donated 140 units or 17-and-half gallons of blood since becoming a donor in 1996. Today theMore >>
    There are your average blood donors who might give once or twice a year and then there is Frank Sklenarik. He's donated 140 units or 17-and-half gallons of blood since becoming a donor in 1996. Today theMore >>
  • Weather rollercoaster wreaks havoc across the state

    Weather rollercoaster wreaks havoc across the state

    Wednesday, April 16 2014 12:07 AM EDT2014-04-16 04:07:42 GMT
    Rain, flooding and now snow. This weather rollercoaster is causing problems all around our region. Temps have dropped so the heavy rainfall has switched to snow. Rivers are spilling their banks, roadsMore >>
    Rain, flooding and now snow. This weather rollercoaster is causing problems all around our region. Temps have dropped so the heavy rainfall has switched to snow.More >>
  • Rutland mom caught stealing Easter goodies

    Rutland mom caught stealing Easter goodies

    Wednesday, April 16 2014 1:07 AM EDT2014-04-16 05:07:35 GMT
    A Rutland mom is busted for stealing goodies for her child's Easter basket.  22-year-old Monica Barker pleaded guilty to swiping about $70 in merchandise from Wal-mart. Police say most of the stolen itemsMore >>
    A Rutland mom is busted for stealing goodies for her child's Easter basket.  22-year-old Monica Barker pleaded guilty to swiping about $70 in merchandise from Wal-mart. Police say most of the stolen itemsMore >>
  • Warnings about rising rivers across our region

    Warnings about rising rivers across our region

    Tuesday, April 15 2014 8:08 PM EDT2014-04-16 00:08:37 GMT
    Flood warnings are in effect around our region as heavy rains begin to move through. There is already localized flooding at some of the typical problem spots, like the wrong-way bridge on Route 15 inMore >>
    Parts of our region are already flooding and others are bracing as heavy rains move through. Not only is rain falling fast, but warm temperatures Monday melted snow, adding to high waters.More >>
  • Man rescued from Black River in Springfield

    Man rescued from Black River in Springfield

    Tuesday, April 15 2014 7:06 PM EDT2014-04-15 23:06:00 GMT
    A man had to be pulled from the Black River in Springfield Tuesday morning. The Hartford Fire Department says it's working to pull a man out from the river. They say he got stuck about 75 feet out inMore >>
    Vermont emergency workers have rescued a man stranded in the middle of a treacherous section of river in downtown Springfield.
    More >>
  • NH agrees Vt. man was insane during killing

    NH agrees Vt. man was insane during killing

    Tuesday, April 15 2014 2:49 PM EDT2014-04-15 18:49:26 GMT
    A Vermont man charged with stabbing a stranger to death in the lobby of a New Hampshire hotel last year will plead not guilty by reason of insanity.More >>
    A Vermont man charged with stabbing a stranger to death in the lobby of a New Hampshire hotel last year will plead not guilty by reason of insanity.More >>
Powered by WorldNow
All content © Copyright 2000 - 2014 WorldNow and WCAX. All Rights Reserved. For more information on this site, please read our Privacy Policy and Terms of Service.