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Evidence From Co-Defendant’s Trial Usable, Provided Defendant Has Notice And A Chance To Respond

In State v. Delisle, 2015 VT 76 (May 29, 2015), the Vermont Supreme Court ruled that a defendant must have notice and opportunity to respond if a trial court utilizes evidence from a co-defendant’s trial.

Issue: Petitioner and a co-defendant were found guilty of a home robbery and assault. At Petitioner’s sentencing, the trial court judge expressly considered evidence from the co-defendant’s trial. The issues before the Court were: 1) if the trial court erroneously relied on evidence from the prior trial without providing the defendant notice and an opportunity to respond; and 2) if so, was the error prejudicial?

Holding: The Court held that although the trial court was permitted to rely on evidence from a co-defendant’s trial, the defendant must be given notice and the chance to respond. The Court rejected the State’s argument that the Petitioner should have known that the State would rely on evidence from his co-defendant’s trial. Further, the failure to provide such notice was prejudicial. Petitioner’s sentence was vacated and remanded for rehearing before a different judge.

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