Tuesday, April 05, 2005

‘Fixing the Law’ and Legislation

This seems to only happen when someone rich, powerful, and/or with important political connections gets caught up in the arbitrary and blatantly unfair, American Injustice System.
-Steven G. Erickson aka Vikingas

stevengerickson@yahoo.com

Assisted Suicide Defense Backed State Endorses Special Probation
April 5, 2005
By DAVID OWENS, Hartford Courant Staff Writer (ctnow.com)

LITCHFIELD -- The state filed court papers Monday agreeing with defense arguments that Huntington Williams, accused of aiding in the suicide of a friend suffering from advanced prostate cancer, should be allowed to apply for a special form of probation known as accelerated rehabilitation.

The position could clear the way for disposition of the case as early as Thursday.The decision will be made by Superior Court Judge Robert C. Brunetti, who will read legal briefs filed Monday by the state and Williams' lawyer, then hear arguments from both sides Thursday.

Williams' case has prompted interest in Connecticut and beyond, with many supporters seeing what Williams did as the compassionate act of a friend rather than a crime. Dozens of people - including relatives of the man Williams is accused of helping commit suicide - have attended court hearings to support Williams.Williams, 74, of Cornwall, was charged with second-degree manslaughter after allegedly helping John T. Welles, 66, kill himself at his home in Cornwall on June 11, 2004.

Authorities say Williams cleaned a gun, carried it outside and discussed with Welles the most effective spot to aim the weapon.

Williams' lawyer, J. Michael Sconyers of Litchfield, applied for accelerated rehabilitation on behalf of Williams, but many were concerned that Williams would not be eligible for the probation that could wipe his record clean.State law bars those who "caused" the death of another from receiving the probation, but Sconyers argued that the prohibition did not apply in this case because Williams is accused of aiding in Welles' death, not causing it.

Litchfield State's Attorney David Shepack agreed with that position.

In court papers, Shepack said that because Williams is accused of aiding Welles' suicide, and not causing it, he believes Williams is eligible to apply for accelerated rehabilitation.

"The legislature saw fit to exclude from AR only those offenses which `caused' a death," Shepack wrote in his brief.

"The AR statute not only fails to specifically exclude manslaughter [of the type with which Williams is charged], it fails to incorporate the term `aid' into the AR statute as well."In his brief, Sconyers said Williams is a good candidate for accelerated rehabilitation because of his record of service to the community and because he was showing compassion to Welles.

Should Brunetti agree with the lawyers' arguments, he could grant accelerated rehabilitation at Thursday's hearing.Concern that Williams might not be eligible for accelerated rehabilitation prompted state Sen. Andrew W. Roraback, R-Goshen, to propose changing the law to allow those accused of assisting suicide to be eligible for it. The measure is pending in the General Assembly.

Those accused of assisting suicide were eligible for accelerated rehabilitation until a change in state law in 1998.

A decision by a judge to grant accelerated rehabilitation to a motorist whose vehicle struck and killed two children when he took his eyes off the road to sip a beer prompted public outrage. The legislature responded by banning accelerated rehabilitation for defendants accused of causing a death.

Roraback, whose district includes Cornwall, said his bill would extend discretion to judges only in cases of assisted suicide, not force a judgment in the Williams case. The bill would take effect upon passage and be retroactive to June 1, 2004 - days before Welles' death.

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