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Awaiting New Murder Trial, Donald Fell Continues Death Penalty Challenge

A Vermont man charged with murder is arguing the 10th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution should protect him from facing the death penalty.
Michal Chodyra
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iStock
A Vermont man charged with murder is arguing the 10th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution should protect him from facing the death penalty.

Donald Fell was convicted in federal court of kidnapping Teresca King in Rutland in 2000 and killing her in New York state. He was sentenced to death, but his conviction was overturned due to juror misconduct.

As Fell awaits a new trial, his attorneys are working to avoid the possibility of him facing the death penalty again with unique arguments against The Federal Death Penalty Act, including one invoking the 10th Amendment to the Constitution.

In May, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that a federal ban on sports betting was unconstitutional. The argument relied on the language in the 10th Amendment, which states any powers not clearly given to the federal government are reserved for the states, or to individual citizens.

Court watchers wondered if  other cases would now be looked at through the lens of states' rights. VT Digger criminal justice reporter Alan Keays reports that Fell's lawyers moved quickly to challenge the federal death penalty statute by claiming it violated the 10th Amendment.

Fell's lawyers had previously questioned the constitutionality of the death penalty on humanitarian grounds.

Keays joined Vermont Edition to explain the many twists and turns of Fell's case and where it stands today. 

Broadcast on Thursday, Aug. 23, 2018 at noon; rebroadcast at 7 p.m.

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