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Conviction Dismissed for 6th Amendment Violation

The Sixth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution promises those accused of a crime a “speedy and public trial by an impartial jury”and access to a criminal defense (well, legal counsel) during that trial. So what happens when that right is violated? A recent ruling in Vermont criminal court offers one answer.

Earlier this month, Michael Brillon, a 45-year-old Vermont man, was convicted of felony domestic assault charges and sentenced to 12-24 years in prison, according to But, when the state Supreme Court heard his case, it reportedly dismissed his conviction, effectively freeing him indefinitely.

The reason for the high court’s decision, it seems, was that Brillon’s right to a speedy trial was violated. In fact, sources indicate that the man waited nearly three years in jail between being charged with the crime and being convicted. The Justices sitting on the VT Supreme Court apparently feel that such delays are too long.

But, in spite of the ruling, two dissenting Justices allegedly disagreed seriously with the decision to let Brillon free. In their dissenting opinion, they expressed strong disapproval that a “woman beater and habitual offender” was let go not because of lack of evidence or a biased jury, but only because the trial hadn’t been completed quickly enough, according to the Rutland Herald.

And it seems the Justices may have acted more as a preventative measure than anything else. Indeed, part of the decision reportedly includes the comment that the Justices felt “reluctant but compelled” to rule in favor of releasing Brillon. Later, the decision includes a hope that similar delays will not lead to future dismissals of murder and other serious felony convictions.

The majority also evidently suggested that the delays resulted from inaction on the part of the state, and that increased funding for Vermont’s criminal justice system would address some of the problems that led to the dismissal of Brillon’s conviction.

Lawyers for the state, though, have allegedly claimed that most of the delays were caused by Brillon himself, insisting that he dismissed lawyers, sabotaged legal proceedings and generally slowed down the process of his own accord. And sources indicate that both legislators and spokespeople from the administration of Governor Jim Douglas have noted that funding for the state’s criminal justice system has increased every year since Brillon’s case began.

Plus, with a reported 14 prior convictions on his record – including obstructing justice, concealing stolen property and sexual assault of a minor – Brillon isn’t the most sympathetic character.

For now, it seems Brillon is a free man. But Governor Douglas has reportedly asked Vermont’s Attorney General to petition the Supreme Court for a retrial. For more updates about how your constitutional rights affect your everyday life, visit Total Criminal Defense.

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