(Host) Witnesses in Donald Fell’s death penalty trial say that he was an eager student, both as a young boy and later as a prison inmate. The testimony is part of the defense team’s effort to convince the jury to spare Fell’s life.
VPR’s John Dillon is following the trial in federal court in Burlington.
(Dillon) The same jury that found Donald Fell guilty two weeks ago of federal carjacking and murder charge must now decide whether he is executed, or sentenced to prison without parole.
As the defense tries to show that Fell’s life is worth saving, his lawyers have painted a picture of a childhood filled with physical, emotional and sexual abuse.
On Wednesday, the lawyers tried to show a more positive side as they called two teachers from his early childhood to testify. They described a respectful child who did well in school. But his fifth grade teacher said his grades declined about the time the defense says his father left the home.
Mary Jo Scott, who teaches inmates at the Northwest State Correctional facility in St. Albans, also said Fell was a courteous, eager student who absorbed everything she offered. Her voice choked with emotion as she told the court that she didn’t want to see her student put to death.
Scott said, quote: “I would value what I’ve done with Donnie, and what Donnie has done for himself. I would hate to see an end to that.”
Prison guards testified that Fell is generally well-behaved. But prosecutors also got them to reveal that he’s been disciplined for violent outbursts in jail.
The jury is expected to begin deliberations early next week.
For Vermont Public Radio, I’m John Dillon in Burlington.