Jurors pushed for Gurung to remain in psychiatric facility, not prison

Published: Nov. 30, 2022 at 4:22 PM EST
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BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) - A group of jurors who this month determined a Burlington man was legally sane at the time of a 2017 murder, also advocated that he remain in a mental treatment facility, not prison.

A judge Tuesday ruled that Aita Gurung be moved from a mental health facility to prison following his murder conviction. But nine of the 12 jurors signed on to a letter earlier this month stating that given the severity of Gurung’s mental illness, he should remain in a secure psychiatric facility. The letter was written by the jury’s foreperson and reads in part, “...It is the unanimous opinion of the jury that he suffers from a severe psychotic disease and that his mental disease significantly influenced the events of October 12, 2017.”

Former federal prosecutor Christina Nolan says a letter like this by members of the jury is highly unusual. “It’s extraordinarily rare for a jury after a defendant has been convicted to make any kind of recommendation about that defendant’s situation post-conviction. Jurors are not only public servants doing their public duty, they’re also concerned citizens expressing their view on where the defendant should be housed at this time,” she said. Nolan says despite the letter, the jury still stands by their verdict. “They understood that having a severe mental health disease does not mean that you’re insane at the time of the crime. But they are people. jurors are people, judges are people, and the lawyers are people -- and as people, nine of the 12 have a point of view that he belongs in a hospital right now.”

Nolan says the jury does not have any discretion over sentencing for Gurung and that the letter would not have influenced the decision to move him.

State officials Tuesday did say that if Gurung’s psychiatric symptoms escalate, he can be transferred back into a hospital setting.

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