Bill gives legislative committees subpoena power

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(Host) Legislative committees would be given power to subpoena witnesses under a bill approved by the state Senate.

Under current law, the only way committees can force a witness to testify is if the full Legislature approves a subpoena.

Senate Judiciary Chairman Dick Sears says the law should change. He says his committee ran into problems this fall when it was investigating the death of 12-year-old Brooke Bennett.

The committee couldn’t force witnesses to testify because the full Legislature wasn’t in session to approve subpoenas.

(Sears) “One thing that the Senate Judiciary Committee discovered this fall regarding our sex offender laws was that we did not have the ability to compel witnesses to come forward."

(Host) Sears says the lack of subpoena power prevented his committee from getting testimony from two key witnesses.

(Sears) “One was Michael Jacques’s probation officer, who recommended some pretty stern measures, who then retired and we couldn’t find him and we could not subpoena the records of the Treasurer who sends him his retirement checks. The second person was an assistant state’s attorney in Orange County at the time who just said he didn’t want to testify and there’s nothing that we can do."

(Host) The legislation would allow a potential witness to challenge the subpoenas in court.

The measure now moves to the House.

Photo: Sen. Richard Sears, D-Bennington, right, and Sen. John Campbell, D-Windsor, listen to a witness at the Statehouse in Montpelier, Vt., Friday, Oct. 17, 2008 (AP Photo/Toby Talbot)

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