Alleged killer seeks home confinement
By Brent Curtis
staff writer | June 25,2014
A Castleton man charged with first-degree murder in the killing of his daughter’s boyfriend is asking a court to transfer him from jail to confinement in his home pending his trial.
Stephen F. Pelletier, 59, has been imprisoned since his arrest last month for allegedly killing 25-year-old Michael Wisell who was living at Pelletier’s Eaton Hill home with his wife and daughter.
At his arraignment, prosecutors successfully argued that Pelletier should be jailed without the option of posting bail.
But Monday, during the first hearing in Pelletier’s case since his arraignment, defense attorney Brian Marsicovetere said he planned to petition the court to allow his client to be detained at home.
Neither Marsicovetere, nor Assistant Attorney General Ultan Doyle — who said his office is now working with the Rutland County state’s attorney’s office to prosecute the case — have yet argued in court whether Pelletier should be detained at home.
In a two-page application to the home-detention program, Marsicovetere said Pelletier would leave his home only for court appearances, employment, medical appointments and appointments with his attorney.
He would also be monitored by unspecified “electronic surveillance equipment” that would be installed in his home, according to the application.
Doyle said after the hearing that the state Department of Corrections would need to review the application to decide if Pelletier is eligible for home detention before the matter returns to court.
Marsicovetere could not be reached for comment.
The request to hold Pelletier without bail was never argued in court, but State’s Attorney Marc Brierre said Tuesday he made the request based on the seriousness of the offense — first-degree murder carries a potential sentence of 35 years to life in prison.
Judges also weigh factors such as community ties — which are strong for Pelletier, who lives on his family farm — and criminal history. Aside from a drunken driving offense, Pelletier has no criminal record.
Not all murder charges bring requests to hold the accused without bail. In the case of Dennis Duby, charged in February with second-degree murder in the killing of 2-year-old Dezirae Sheldon, prosecutors successfully argued for $250,000 bail. Duby has since posted that amount and must abide by a 24-hour curfew at his Pittsford home.
But Brierre said comparing bail in murder cases is faulty because prosecutors argue based on the evidence they have at the time.
“The Dennis Duby case is different because the evidence we had at the time was different,” he said.
Vermont Law School professor and former prosecutor Cheryl Hanna said that requests to deny the accused the opportunity to post bail in potential life sentence cases isn’t unusual.
“It’s because of the perceived flight risk and the potential risk to public safety when you’re talking about an offense (in first-degree murder cases) where there is an element of premeditation,” she said.
Far less common, she said, is granting home detention in such cases.
“I would say that’s very uncommon because of the flight risk,” she said.