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State v. Goucher

Supreme Court of Vermont

June 4, 2014

State of Vermont
v.
Whalen Goucher

Editorial Note:

This decision has been designated as "Supreme Court of Vermont Appeals Disposed of Without Published Opinion or Memorandum Decision." table in the Atlantic Reporter

Appeal from: Superior Court, Rut. Crim. DOCKET NOS. 181-2-14/393-3-14 Rdcr. Trial Judge: Theresa M. DiMauro.

OPINION

Paul L. Reiber, Chief Justice.

ENTRY ORDER

In the above-entitled cause, the Clerk will enter:

Defendant appeals the trial court's denial of his motion for pretrial home detention. For the following reasons, I affirm the trial court's decision.

Defendant was arraigned on one count of first-degree aggravated domestic assault under 13 V.S.A. § 1043(a)(2) in February 2014. He was released on conditions. In March 2014, defendant was arraigned on four additional charges, including domestic assault under 13 V.S.A. § 1042, operating a vehicle without the owner's consent under 23 V.S.A. § 1094(a), petit larceny under 13 V.S.A. § 2502, and violation of conditions of release under 13 V.S.A. § 7559(e).[1] At that time, defendant was held on $50,000.00 bail. On April 3, 2014, defendant filed a motion requesting to be released into the custody of Glenn and David Horgan in Rutland, with whom he had lived with for several months. The motion was denied.

On April 10, 2014, defendant filed a motion for pretrial home detention pursuant to 13 V.S.A. § 7554b(b). The court instructed the Department of Corrections (DOC) to evaluate the suitability of the proposed residence, the Horgans, for pretrial home detention. After an investigation, the DOC approved the residence based on the facts that the Horgans were willing to supervise defendant and that the residence was able to accept GPS monitoring. A hearing was held on defendant's motion on April 29, 2014, after which the trial court orally denied the motion.

In its decision, the court emphasized that although the DOC found the residence suitable for home detention, § 7554b(b) required the court to consider other specific factors as well. The court first considered the nature of the offense, noting that defendant is charged with five separate offenses, several of which alleged violent conduct as well as violations of court orders. In particular, the court emphasized that after the initial charge was filed defendant allegedly committed domestic assault and violated his conditions of release by strangling his former girlfriend. A witness to the incident stated that defendant punched and choked her, and the police stated that some of the furniture had been smashed. The court further noted that defendant faced a potential thirty-three-and-a-half years imprisonment if convicted of the pending changes, and that defendant was only one felony away from being charged under the habitual offender statute, potentially subjecting him to life imprisonment. Finally, the court noted that in the interim between the February and March charges, defendant was charged with possession of an illegal weapon in New York.

The court then discussed defendant's criminal history, stating that defendant's contact with the criminal justice system has run " virtually unabated" since he was nineteen, except for the periods that he was in prison. His criminal history includes convictions from several states for aggravated assault, being a fugitive from justice, two armed robberies, and manslaughter, as well as arrests for armed robbery, domestic assault, and rape, among other charges. Since defendant's arrival in Vermont sometime around 2011, he has been convicted of simple assault, giving false information to a police officer, and prohibited acts. The court observed that defendant has been incarcerated around sixteen to eighteen years of his life in several different jurisdictions. The court concluded that defendant's criminal history signals violence and an inability to restrain himself under any supervision less than incarceration, considering his history of consistently returning to committing crimes upon release. Finally, the court noted that defendant has a high risk of flight due to the past fugitive charge; his having committed crimes in numerous jurisdictions, including Florida, California, Massachusetts and New York; and his lack of employment or permanent residence.

Finally, the court found that defendant posed an undue risk to a third party, defendant's former girlfriend, if released, considering his history of violent crimes, his history of violence against her and the fact that he allegedly committed a domestic assault against her in violation of his conditions of release. The court concluded that all three factors articulated in § 7554b(b) weighed against placing defendant into home detention, and denied defendant's motion.

Defendant appeals from the court's order, arguing that the trial court abused its discretion by not giving adequate consideration to defendant's evidence that home detention is appropriate, including testimony and letters from the Horgans and other supporters.

Section 7554b of Title 13 allows court review of a trial court's decision to deny home detention pretrial where defendant is held for more than seven days for lack of bail. 13 V.S.A. ยง 7554b(b). When determining whether ...


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