NEWFANE — Two Windham County convicted murderers are challenging their convictions that go back to the early 1990s.
Christopher Bacon, who was convicted for the April 1991 murder of Newfane music teacher Robin Colson, recently filed a petition for post-conviction relief, claiming his sentence of life without parole was excessive, and that his trial attorney was ineffective. Robert Plante, who was convicted of the May 1992 Williamsville murder of Glenn Michaelson, is also claiming his trial lawyers' work was faulty.
Bacon, who was an inmate at the Woodstock state prison at the time of Colson's murder, had escaped from a prison work crew at Townshend State Park along with fellow prisoner Charles Gundlah, and after about four days on the lam, ambushed Colson in her rural Newfane home and killed her. Bacon was actually convicted twice of Colson's death, when the Vermont Supreme Court set aside his first conviction. During his second trial he was represented by Brattleboro lawyer Jesse Corum.
Gundlah, who had a separate trial, was convicted and sentenced to 72 years to life. Years later, he confessed that he had killed Colson alone.
Bacon's petition, which was filed in Newport where he is serving a sentence of life without parole, will be heard in court in early September, according to court documents at Windham Superior Court.
Plante was convicted in 1993 during a jury trial for the May1992 felony murder of Glenn Michaelson in Williamsville, a village in the town of Newfane. Michaelson had been stabbed in the neck with a ski pole, and Plante stole his car and leather jacket.
Windham County State's Attorney Tracy Kelly Shriver declined to comment on the two petitions. But in a motion to dismiss Plante's petition, she noted that Plante had raised the issue of ineffective trial strategy before and that that petition for post conviction relief had been denied by the Vermont Supreme Court. "On June 23, 1997, petitioner filed a petition for post conviction relief in the Windham Civil Division challenging the performance of his trial attorneys. Reviewing his claims that `his attorneys failed to provide competent assistance with respect to their advice concerning the state's plea offer,' and that the attorneys failed to `adequately investigate, prepare and present a diminished capacity defense' the Vermont Supreme Court concluded that the trial court correctly determined petitioner's claims had no merit," Shriver'smotion, filed last week, stated.
The state's highest court ruled on that matter in 2000.
"Petitioner is attempting to raise the identical issues already raised, briefed, tried and appealed," Shriver wrote. She noted that the courts are not required "to entertain a second or successive motion for similar relief on behalf of the same prisoner, and therefore, the respondent moves to dismiss the instant petition," she added.
"There is no basis to relitigate the issue of the effectiveness of petitioner's trial counsel," she added.
In a hand-written request sent from Tutwiler, Mississippi, where Vermont has contracted for some of the state's more serious criminals to be held, Plante said his trial attorney's strategy was to use "the antagonistic/mutually exclusive defenses of alibi in conjunction with diminished capacity was doomed to fail from the start." "The basic premise of this doomed strategy is `I didn't do it, but if I did, I'm less culpable than you're making me out to be because I was in an altered state of mind," he wrote. "In this state of Vermont, no defendant in a criminal prosecution who has utilized this doomed strategy has prevailed at or following jury trial," Plante wrote. He said if his attorney had used a strong defense, he wouldn't have received what he said was "an effective sentence of 52 years to 1,002 years to serve."
According to court documents, Bacon will be represented by the Vermont defender general's office in his post-conviction petition.
Contact Susan Smallheer at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 802254-2311, ext. 154.