Death penalty trial begins jury selection

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(Host) Decades after Vermont abandoned the death penalty, attorneys are preparing for a death penalty trial in federal court in Burlington.

Jury selection began today in the case of Donald Fell, the former Rutland man accused of killing Teresca King in November, 2000.

Vermont does not have a capital punishment statute. But Fell is being tried in federal court, where there is a death penalty, because the victim was transported across a state line before the murder.

Legal observers say this case will be an education for Vermonters in how capital punishment cases proceed – particularly when it comes to jury selection.

Michael Mello teaches criminal law at the Vermont Law School.

(Mello) “The huge unknown, the big variable, is the Vermont jury. There’s no experience base, there’s no frame of reference, there’s no benchmark in Vermont on jury selection in capitol cases because there hasn’t been one in almost half a century.”

(Host) Officials say jury selection could take months. The trial itself could take six weeks to two months.

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