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State v. Pelletier

Supreme Court of Vermont

September 9, 2014

State of Vermont
v.
Stephen Pelletier

Appeal from: Superior Court, Rutland Unit, Criminal Division. DOCKET NO. 695-5-14 Rdcr. Trial Judge: Theresa S. DiMauro.

Paul L. Reiber, Chief Justice, John A. Dooley, Associate Justice, Marilyn S. Skoglund, Associate Justice.

Page 222

ENTRY ORDER

[¶1] Defendant Stephen Pelletier appeals the trial court's denial of his motion for pretrial home detention pursuant to 13 V.S.A. § 7554b. We affirm.

[¶2] Defendant was arraigned for first-degree murder under 13 V.S.A. § 2301 on May 21, 2014, and was held without bail under 13 V.S.A. § 7553. On June 24, 2014, defendant filed an application for the home detention program under 13 V.S.A. § 7554b, which states, in pertinent part:

(b) Procedure. The status of a defendant who is detained pretrial for more than seven days in a correctional facility for lack of bail may be reviewed by the court to determine whether the defendant is appropriate for home detention... . After a hearing, the court may order that the defendant be released to the Home Detention Program, providing that the court finds placing the defendant on home detention will reasonably assure his or her appearance in court when required and the proposed residence is appropriate for home detention. In making such a determination, the court shall consider:
(1) the nature of the offense with which the defendant is charged;
(2) the defendant's prior convictions, history of violence, medical and mental health needs, history of supervision, and risk of flight; and
(3) any risk or undue burden to other persons who reside at the proposed residence or risk to third parties or to public safety that may result from such placement.

[¶3] Defendant proposed that he live at his home with his family and continue to work there. The trial court found based on that proposal that defendant would be working on his 140-acre farm and in fields located four to five miles away, and that he

Page 223

would be alone in his residence for substantial periods of time. The court questioned whether the GPS monitoring involved in home detention could cover the large area and guarantee defendant's location. As a result, the court expressed concern over the appropriateness of defendant's residence for home detention.

[¶4] The trial court then considered the § 7554b(b) factors. As to the first factor, the court noted that defendant was charged with first-degree murder, which carries a penalty of 35 years to life imprisonment. Id. § 2303(a). The court found strong evidence of premeditation, specifically that defendant discussed obtaining a handgun in March 2014; that he made efforts to avoid detection, performing the alleged killing away from the house and when no one else was home and later concealing the body in a compost pile; and that he maintained his position for six days before the police arrived to investigate the missing person report. The court also found strong evidence of guilt, including defendant's apparent confession.

[¶5] As to the second factor, the trial court noted that defendant has one prior DUI conviction from 1999 for which he was fined, but that defendant has no other prior history of convictions or supervision. The trial court also noted that there is no evidence of any prior history of violence or medical needs. The court, however, examined the evidence and found defendant's mental health posed a risk of nonappearance. The court found that defendant was suicidal on May 20, 2014, and that " the outlook for his future has not improved since then." The court noted that defendant is 59 years old and likely will spend the rest of his life in prison; because of defendant's ...


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