Judiciary Committee chairman frustrated judge won’t talk about Jacques case

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(Host) The chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee is frustrated that a judge won’t talk about a case involving Michael Jacques, the man accused of kidnapping Brooke Bennett.

The committee is holding hearings on possible changes to Vermont law following the kidnapping and murder of Bennett, a 12-year-old Braintree girl.

VPR’s John Dillon reports:

(Dillon) Committee Chairman Senator Dick Sears says he wants to hear from Judge Amy Davenport, who reviewed Jacques’s probation from an earlier sexual assault case.

But Davenport has refused to testify. She told Sears in a letter that the code of judicial conduct prevents her from talking about the case.

She told Sears that her testimony could potentially affect the outcome of the current charges – or future charges – against Jacques.

The explanation did not satisfy Sears. He said judges should be able to talk about closed cases.

(Sears) “I just am concerned that we are not going to hear their side of the story, how they ended up here. And I tried to make abundantly clear to all the judges that we’re not interested in talking about a pending case. We’re talking about a case that’s been was closed.”

(Host) Sears told the committee that Judge Davenport had spoken freely about her decisions a few years ago when the Legislature was reviewing her appointment.

(Sears) “I don’t understand the distinction. If she can publicly talk about these cases in a forum, when they are decided cases. They’re not ongoing cases. I’d like to understand what was going on.

(Host) But other members of the committee said they understood the judge’s reluctance to testify.

Windsor Democrat John Campbell is a lawyer, who urged the committee to be careful.

(Campbell) “I think Judge Davenport’s got a point. And there are the canons of judicial ethics, and it’s a question of interpreting. And when you’re dealing with a situation that in any way shape or form could possibly hamper any future case or investigation or potentially harm a future investigation regarding this, I would side with the court.”

(Dillon) Court Administrator Lee Suskin said the court system is cooperating to the fullest extent possible, by providing documents and testimony.

He said judges will talk to the committee about pre-sentence investigations and other issues.

(Suskin) “The judiciary wants to help this committee to do its work, and there are judges who can come in and answer the questions you have.”

(Dillon) The committee plans to hold a public hearing on sex offender laws later this month.

For VPR News, I’m John Dillon in Montpelier.

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