Judge nixes release of police video
By Brent Curtis
STAFF WRITER | January 09,2013
Vyto Starinskas / Staff Photo
The judge makes the physical DVD available of evidence in the case of 39-year-old Jennifer Berube, but would not allow the press to play it or video tape it when produced by the Rutland District court clerk Tuesday.
A video that was the deciding factor in a judge’s ruling to jail a woman without bail for an alleged murder attempt on a city police officer was shown in a Rutland courtroom Tuesday but its release was denied to the broader public through the actions of the presiding judge in the case.
In her decision to jail 39-year-old Jennifer Berube, a transient woman charged with trying to cut the throat of Rutland Police Officer Damon Nguyen, Judge Theresa DiMauro said she found Berube’s actions in the video more credible than Berube’s insistence to investigators afterward that she had no intention of harming Nguyen.
“Those statements can be viewed as self serving, inaccurate and false in light of what was viewed,” the judge said. “While she may claim her intent was only to get the keys, a jury could find otherwise.”
Television cameras from two Vermont news stations and a photographer from the Rutland Herald also came to the hearing to see and reproduce the video that was described as a key piece of evidence in the case that carries a potential lifetime jail sentence for Berube.
But a series of rulings by DiMauro denied public review of the video, which was viewed in open court.
The first obstacle to camera recordings arose when prosecutors placed a projection screen for the video in front of the narrow area near the jury box where courtroom rules require photographers to congregate.
When one photographer asked the judge for permission to move to the other side of the courtroom, DiMauro denied his request.
“That’s against the protocols,” she said.
Formal requests filed by the Rutland Herald and WCAX after the hearing resulted in the judge releasing the DVD disc, which was placed on a counter to be seen by reporters.
However, Rutland criminal court administrator Laurie Canty said the judge had prohibited anyone from using their own viewer to watch or make a copy of the video and the court lacked its own viewing device to review the contents in the clerk’s office.
The judge’s actions were perplexing to Burlington attorney Robert Hemley, who represents the Herald.
Hemley said under the Vermont Supreme Court’s Public Access to Court Records compilation of court rules, courts are expected to make evidence presented in open court visible to all parties.
“You can’t say that you get to see all the evidence but you position them behind a pillar so they can’t see anything. That’s not the intent of the rule,” Hemley said.