Criminal Justice

Charges tossed against hammer-attack suspect after accuser refuses to testify without a mask

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An Oregon judge dismissed charges against a suspect in a hammer attack Monday after his accuser refused to testify against him without a mask.

Heather Fawcett refused to testify in the retrial of Pedro Sanchez because she feared a COVID-19 infection that could be passed along to her ailing parents, the Oregonian reports in a story summarized by the New York Post, Fox News and Scallywag and Vagabond.

“It’s the second time I’m going through this trial,” Fawcett told the Oregonian. “And now you’re gonna tell me I have to expose my friends and my family and people that I care about and myself to this virus?”

Jurors had voted 10-2 to convict Sanchez of second-degree assault in the first trial five years ago. The Oregon Supreme Court overturned the conviction after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled last April that a unanimous verdict is needed to convict a defendant of a serious criminal offense.

Sanchez had contended that his right to confront his accuser required her to testify without a mask, prosecutors told Fawcett. Judge Jennifer Chapman had ordered witnesses to wear a clear face shield but no mask.

Fawcett had asked whether she could instead wear a mask with a clear window over her mouth. She was told such masks had been ordered, but they would not arrive in time for trial.

The only other witnesses in the case against Sanchez were Fawcett’s then-boyfriend and his brother. They have since died.

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