Rutland State's Attorney Race Heats Up
State’s Attorney races are often among the more ho-hum campaigns each election season. But this year, several incumbents face strong challenges, including Rutland’s State’s Attorney Marc Brierre.
Brierre has worked as a state prosecutor in Rutland for more than 30 years and was appointed to lead the office in 2009 by then-governor Jim Douglas.
Douglas has lauded what he calls Brierre’s principled leadership and has encouraged voters to re-elect the 63-year old military veteran.
Brierre says it takes time to become a good prosecutor, especially with murder cases, something he says his opponent has little experience with. “Whether it’s a minor case of a minor crime or whether it’s a very serious case, ultimately there are innumerable factors that are unpredictable and an experienced prosecutor can often charge, maybe settle or try the case more effectively than an inexperienced prosecutor,” says Brierre.
Prosecutors in Rutland have one of the highest workloads in the state, juggling up to 700 cases at a time. But Brierre says the situation should improve now that his office has recently hired a fifth deputy attorney. “We’ve been a very efficient office and a very effective office and Rutland County has had a high felony conviction rate and we process a lot of cases.”
It can be difficult to accurately compare conviction rates from county to county because of how cases are characterized and charged, and because some cases remain in the system for years.
But according state judicial statistics, of the 374 felony cases disposed in Rutland County Criminal Court in 2013, Brierre and his staff won a conviction nearly 80% of the time. That rate is better than 7 other Vermont counties including Franklin and Chittenden. https://www.vermontjudiciary.org/JC/Shared%20Documents/2013-Criminal.pdf
But Brierre had an embarrassing defeat in May when a jury acquitted a woman charged with attempting to murder a Rutland City Police officer in an incident caught on video.
Not long after, the Vermont Troopers Association publicly endorsed Brierre's challenger, Rose Kennedy. Rutland Mayor Chris Louras has also endorsed Kennedy saying he believes she'll collaborate more closely with local law enforcement.
Kennedy says those endorsements are telling.“I’ve been a prosecutor for 8 years and I know how to handle a felony case load,” says the 44-year-old. “I think the people of Rutland County deserve better than what they’re getting right now and experience is one thing, but passion and desire to actually go and advocate for the people of this community is more important and I don’t see that happening and that’s why I’m running.”
Kennedy was a prosecutor in Chittenden County who specialized in severe child abuse and sexual assault cases. She moved to Rutland in 2006 to raise her two young children and be closer to her husband’s family.
Last year, Kennedy began working for the state’s attorney’s office in Rutland where she led the prosecution in the murder case against Dennis Duby, the man accused of killing his 2-year-old stepdaughter Dezirae Sheldon.
Kennedy says it was that case that pushed her to run for her boss’s job. She says after reviewing the toddlers’ file, she was shocked at how little had been done the previous year when the child’s legs had been broken. “I think that’s a prime example of where the State’s Attorney really needs to take ownership of a case, ask tough questions, call the doctors and really investigate what happens to a particular victim and I didn’t see that.”
Marc Brierre disagrees and says the State’s Attorney should not be doing the investigation, but should bring charges if the investigation reveals an offense and he says that’s what his office did.
Kennedy was fired from the state’s attorneys’ office when she announced her intention to run against Brierre. She’s been working for the state Attorney General in Rutland ever since.
Brierre says keeping Kennedy on his staff would have undermined morale and he says he stands by his long record.