from: Superior Court, Chittenden Unit, Criminal Division.
DOCKET NO. 2630-7-14 Cncr. Trial Judges: James R. Crucitti,
A. Gregory Rainville.
Dooley, Associate Justice, Marilyn S. Skoglund, Associate
Justice, Beth Robinson, Associate Justice.
[¶1] . Defendant appeals the trial
court's December 29, 2014 decision to deny bail and its
October 14, 2015 decision to deny home detention. We affirm.
[¶2] . On July 25, 2014, the State charged
defendant with second degree murder of A.H. in violation of
13 V.S.A. § 2301. Defendant was arraigned on that date
and ordered held without bail pursuant to 13 V.S.A. §
7553. The evidence supporting probable cause included the
medical examiner's opinion that, while in defendant's
care, A.H. died as a result of blunt impact injury to his
head. Although defendant admitted the injuries occurred, he
told several inconsistent stories about the cause of the
injuries; none of his stories explained the type of injuries
identified by the medical examiner.
[¶3] . A subsequent autopsy by the medical
examiner suggested that A.H. incurred his injuries "
days to weeks" prior to his death. Because the medical
examiner could no longer determine if the injuries occurred
during one event or multiple events, the State filed a motion
to review bail and a motion to review probable cause. In a
September 5, 2014 written decision and order, the trial court
held that probable cause still existed. But the court wrote
that probable cause was " literally paper thin" and
found it doubtful the State could survive a motion to dismiss
under Vermont Rule of Criminal Procedure 12(d). Based
partially on the weakness of the State's evidence, the
court set bail at $25,000 and imposed conditions of release
pursuant to 13 V.S.A. § 7554.
[¶4] . Defendant next filed a motion to
dismiss under Rule 12(d) on September 5, 2014. After
acquiring new evidence, the State filed a new motion to hold
without bail on October 22, 2014. The trial court conducted
an evidentiary hearing on these two motions, along with
several others, on October 27 and October 28, 2014. At the
hearing, the State presented the treating physician's
testimony, which indicated A.H. received a fatal injury on
the morning of his death, in addition to A.H.'s earlier
injuries. Based on this new evidence, the trial court denied
defendant's motion to dismiss on December 15, 2014, and
continued the hearing on the State's motion to hold
without bail to December 29, 2014.
[¶5] . At the December 29 hearing, the court
reopened the evidence from the October hearing and admitted
an additional medical affidavit supporting the State's
position. The court then denied bail on the record. The court
noted that during the October hearing -- after bail was
originally set on September 5 -- the State bolstered the
evidence of defendant's guilt with medical testimony and
the newly submitted medical affidavit. The court found that
the new evidence suggested the evidence of guilt was great.
In addition, the court highlighted the seriousness of the
offense and the risk of flight. Although the court
acknowledged defendant had significant familial
ties to the area, the weight of the other factors supported
denial of bail.
[¶6] . Approximately nine months later,
defendant filed an application for home detention. A hearing
on the application was held on October 2, 2015. The trial
court subsequently denied defendant's application in a
written order on October 14, 2015. In its order, the court
first noted that, under State v. Whiteway, 2014 VT
34, 196 Vt. 629, 95 A.3d 1004 (mem.) ( Whiteway I ),
the defendant bore the burden of overcoming a presumption for
incarceration. The court next analyzed the three factors
listed in 13 V.S.A. § 7554b(b). The court found that
§ 7554b(b)(1) weighed strongly against home detention
because of the serious nature of second degree murder and the
factual substance of the allegations. The court then examined
the elements listed in § 7554b(b)(2): first, the court
recognized that defendant had not been previously convicted
of any violent crimes, but noted that there was evidence of
prior abuse of A.H. and that defendant had a number of prior
nonviolent convictions; second, the court described a
complicated supervision history that included favorable facts
-- defendant's prior, satisfactory residence with his
cousin -- and unfavorable facts -- defendant's
disciplinary history while incarcerated and two
failure-to-appear warrants; third, the court found that a
risk of flight existed because of the prior warrants and the
weight of evidence. Ultimately, despite recognizing that
§ 7554b(b)(3) favored home detention, the court found
the section's first two factors strongly weighed against
home detention and denied defendant's application.
[¶7] . Defendant appeals the trial
court's December 29, 2014 decision to deny bail and the
court's October 14, 2015 decision to deny home detention.
[¶8] . On appeal, defendant argues that the
trial court did not possess the authority or jurisdiction to
revoke bail on December 29, 2014. Defendant contends that,
once bail was granted on September 5, 2014, the State could
reverse the decision only via two procedural devices:
revocation of bail pursuant to 13 V.S.A. § 7575 or
appeal of the bail decision to this Court under 13 V.S.A.
§ 7556(c). Because the State used neither method,
defendant concludes the trial court had no authority to
reconsider bail. In support, defendant cites this Court's
decision in State v. Synnott, 192 Vt. 652, 54 A.3d
530 (Vt. 2012) ...