Judge, attorneys struggle with how to proceed in Grega murder trial

Saturday March 9, 2013

BRATTLEBORO -- John Grega has been waiting 18 years to get another chance to prove his innocence in front of a Windham County judge.

But Grega's patience might have to be tested a little longer while the two sides in his case try to figure out how to proceed with a new high-profile, and complicated, trial.

Grega was convicted of the sexual assault and murder of his wife, Christine, in 1995 in Dover. Judge John Wesley overturned that conviction last year when new DNA evidence, which was not available at the time of the original trial, cast doubt on the conviction.

Now the two sides are trying to agree on how to handle evidence that is 19 years old and how to find and interview witnesses who are scattered across the country, and who may, or may not be able to remember details about the crime that happened almost two decades ago.

Grega's attorneys and the Windham County State's Attorney came before Wesley Friday to argue a series of motions concerning witnesses and evidence.

During the hearing, Wesley appeared frustrated with both sides and implored them to communicate more and work out their differences to help move the trial along.

This was partially due to the fact that each side has accused the other of making unrealistic requests.

Ian Carleton, one of Grega's attorneys, said Windham County State's Attorney Tracy Shriver knowingly withheld the address of a witness.

"I know my responsibility," Shriver countered. "I turned (the information) over when I had it."

He also said Shriver's latest request to do more tests on a swab that was used to collect DNA from Christine Grega's body would further delay the trial.

Shriver said Carleton's request to depose witnesses was "overbroad," and that the list grew by the day.

Carleton, in turn, said the state has provided a witness list that has 347 names on it, and it included people who, at the time of the 1994 trial, said they had nothing to say about the crime.

Carleton said he was frustrated with Shriver's office and said he was being "sandbagged."

Wesley, saying that he understood the pressures on both sides to leave no stone unturned, asked the attorneys to find a "happy medium."

"I expect, in general, that counsel act professionally and work collegially to avoid the side shows," Wesley said. "This is a very important case. It is the most unusual case I have seen in my career and there is bound to be frustration and opposing views. I expect you to exchange information and put aside your suspicions."

Shriver said the state rejected Carleton's call to redepose some of the witnesses who testified during the original trial. But Brian LaMacchia, another attorney representing Grega, said the new evidence which was not available at the time of the original trial, required Grega's side to talk to the witnesses again.

"The landscape has changed," LaMacchia said. "We have a new piece of the puzzle and we are entitled to talk to them about it."

Shriver said if new interviews are allowed, then they "should be limited."

Attorneys for the town of Dover, and for the Department of Public Safety, were also in court Friday to ask Wesley for more clarification on what Carleton's office wanted from them.

Dover's attorney, Colin McNeil, said the town wanted clarification on Grega's request for Dover Police Department personnel policies and also said the department should not be required to hand over personnel records.

McNeil said the requests were "burdensome" and "too broad."

And Annika Green, who was representing the Department of Public Safety, said Carleton's office was on a fishing expedition.

She said Carleton gave no reason for looking through the personal records of the Vermont State Police.

Wesley also encouraged Dover and the DPS to work with Grega's attorneys before they have to meet again in his court.

Wesley said he hoped to issue decisions next week on the motions that were considered during Friday's hearing.

Howard Weiss-Tisman can be reached at hwtisman@reformer.com, or 802-254-2311, ext. 279. You can follow him on Twitter @HowardReformer.


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