Constitutional Law

Midnight motion wins almost immediate court order allowing public defender to see client

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Denied access Aug. 7 to a jailed woman suspected of killing a state social worker and three relatives after losing a child-custody case, the Vermont defender general’s office swung into action.

Staff attorney Kelly Green said she called Barre city police at 9:20 p.m. asking to see Jody Herring. The 40-year-old had been arrested earlier in the day after police say she fatally shot Lara Sobel with a .270 caliber rifle, in front of witnesses, as the social worker left her office that Friday for the weekend. However, when Green arrived a little before 10 p.m., she was told by police that Herring hadn’t requested an attorney, the Burlington Free Press reports.

Green said Herring was entitled to a lawyer, under state law, just the same. At that point, the public defender was told to contact Washington County State’s Attorney Scott Williams. But Williams said he couldn’t make a decision because he was a witness in the case, the article recounts, relying on information from court records and interviews. A reporter for the paper, who had been waiting for a mug shot and a press release, was present during at least some of Green’s interaction with police..

Reached at 10:47 p.m., assistant attorney general John Treadwell, who serves as chief of the criminal division for the AG’s office, also blocked Green, she says. So at that point she began awakening colleagues in the defender general’s office. It appears from news coverage that Green, at this time, expected her office to be tapped to represent Herring but it may not have been formally appointed to do so.

By 11:52 p.m., with the help of co-workers including Josh O’Hara and Marshall Pahl of her office’s appellate division, an emergency motion had been emailed to Paula Tremblay, who is in charge of Washington County criminal court operations.

By 12:37 a.m. on Aug. 8 an emergency order had been issued by state superior court Judge Nancy Waples. It directed Barre police and the AG’s office to “permit an attorney from the Office of the Public Defender the opportunity to immediately consult with the defendant, Jody Herring.”

At 12:47 a.m., the public defenders filed another emergency motion asking Waples to enforce her ruling. She did. In a second emergency order, the judge wrote that “the court directs the parties to immediately comply with this court’s order.”

At 12:49 a.m., Treadwell, pointing out that Herring had not requested counsel, asked Waples in an email to reconsider.

An email from the court clerk then informed both sides that “the motion to reconsider is denied per Judge Waples via phone.”

The Barre police chief and a detective said Herring had not spoken to them and was “agitated” when police tried to interact with her.

“Herring was ranting about how the police never did anything for her, about how she had been beaten by a former boyfriend and nothing was done and about the injustices suffered at the hands of DCF,” Detective Sgt. Hal Hayden wrote in a court affidavit, referring to the state’s department for children and families.

At last report, Herring had been charged with first-degree murder in the death of Sobel. She has not been charged in the slayings of three relatives that reportedly occurred around the same time.

Related coverage:

The Blaze: “Vermont Woman Goes on Killing Spree After Losing Custody of 9-Year-Old Child”

Burlington Free Press: “Timeline of a tragedy: Unraveling the 4 VT slayings”

Burlington Free Press: “Police: Woman laughed after killing social worker”

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