In our legal system, it’s not only the facts of an incident that are taken into consideration when determining innocence and guilt. The difference between freedom and years behind bars often comes down to what a jury believes was in a defendant’s heart when a crime occurs.
Because of that, some unbelievable reasons for a person’s actions are sometimes presented in court. But the legal defense presented in one case was so far-fetched, it was incredible to think that a lawyer would even argue it, much less expect people to believe it…
On a December day in Rutland City, Vermont, 911 dispatch got a phone call from some business owners on North Main street about a disturbance. Apparently, there were three people going from business to business, trying to use an inactive credit card.
Check It Out
Given that suspicious behavior, it was extremely likely that the credit card had been stolen and the original owner had called their company to have it shut down. The dispatcher accordingly sent out some officers to investigate…
By the time police arrived on the scene, they only found two suspects, the third apparently having already left the scene. When police spoke to the remaining man and woman, they decided to issue them citations for fraudulent use of a credit card. That’s when the crooks bolted.
Fleeing On Foot
The pair split in opposite directions, resulting in a brief chase. The woman threw a backpack into a snowbank as she tried to make a getaway but, after the cops quickly caught up with them, they were able to retrieve it and found a number of other stolen goods inside…
Charges Piling Up
For what had started out as a ticket for the attempted credit card fraud was now, with the resisting arrest and new theft charges, potentially serious jail time for the couple. When the police took them downtown, they began to learn the story behind the petty crimes.
Fall From Grace
Jennifer and John were a married couple, living on the streets. Like many of the states in America’s Northeast in 2012, Vermont had a serious problem with heroin and opioids and these were two of the people afflicted and addicted. But contrary to what you might expect, they hadn’t always been on a downward spiral in life…
Good Life Gone
Jennifer and John had once been a respectable, professional couple with good jobs and a nice, suburban house. It was drugs that had reduced them to homelessness, petty theft, and despair. That despair, Jennifer would later say, is what led the former nurse to do something that would have been unthinkable in her “past life.”
As officer Damon Nguyen was sitting at a computer, doing some work in the police station, Jennifer Berube, somehow free of a cell and without handcuffs slowly snuck up behind him. As she put her left hand over his shoulder and around his neck, her right hand held a knife, which she put to his throat…
Fight For Your Life
Officer Nguyen noticed the woman creeping up on him just as the knife touched his skin and whirled around, rising from his chair with a speed born of combat training and the fear of death. Off balance, the two of them briefly fell to the floor in a tangle of limbs as the officer tried to free himself from Jennifer’s grip.
Time Like Molasses
The moments that followed passed in that near-magical slowed time that anyone who’s had a brush with death has experienced. Already bleeding, Officer Nguyen managed to maneuver himself behind Jennifer as he worked his way back to his feet, gaining control of the wrist of her knife hand as he did…
Officer Nguyen and Jennifer’s shouts and the sound of scrabbling combat had alerted the others in the station of the ongoing struggle. From inside his cell, John cried out “what happened?” Pinned between her would-be victim and a chair and wall but still fighting, Jennifer cried out “I pulled a knife on him.”
Seconds later, a second officer, shortly followed by a third came into the room. Together, they were quickly able to gain full control of the situation. From the moment Jennifer had come up behind Officer Nguyen to when she was cuffed, just about a minute had passed. While one officer maintained control of the perpetrator, the other inspected the attacked cop’s neck…
Thankfully, the cut in his neck had missed Officer Nguyen’s jugular by an inch and his wound was easily treatable. Though Jennifer had been searched earlier before being put in a cell, the officers performed a more thorough search of her and found that in addition to the knife she’d hidden in her clothing, she was also carrying a syringe.
Apparently, Jennifer had been handcuffed and put into an interview room earlier but was later taken out and released from the cuffs to use the bathroom. She was then put back into the interview room — which has no lock — without cuffs and with the door propped open with a trash can so Officer Nguyen could “monitor” her as he did his paperwork with his back to the door…
While the police mishandling of the detainee had given her the opportunity, the choice to attack Officer Nguyen was all Jennifer Barube’s. As such, she was charged with attempted murder and aggravated assault. Given the fact that the entire attack was caught on camera, a conviction was almost certain for the 40-year-old woman.
Nevertheless, Barube entered a plea of not guilty. Her defense attorney’s put forth an incredible defense: she was only trying to scare the officer, not kill him, and had no violent intent. Jennifer claimed that she heard the sound of her husband’s boot laces coming out, followed by gagging, leading her to believe that he was trying to kill himself…
Rather than calling out for the officer to help her husband, she thought it was a better idea to take a knife to him and force him to give her the keys to the cell. Perhaps even more incredible than her defense was the fact that the jury bought it.
It took the jury less than two hours to deliver a not guilty verdict on the attempted murder charge. They even ruled not guilty on the lesser offense of aggravated assault. And although Berube’s defense had expressly spelled out that she was trying to escape the jail, she hadn’t even been charged for that. After putting a knife to a cop’s throat, she would walk away scot-free…
The police and prosecutors were obviously disappointed with the outcome of the trial. “The video was pretty clear. The evidence was pretty clear. But depending on where you sit it’s possible to have different perspectives,” said Police Chief James Baker.
Justice Not Served
“I’m shocked and dismayed, quite frankly, not just by the verdict but by the disappointment I feel on behalf of members of the police department,” said Rutland Mayor Christopher Louras. “I’m not convinced justice was served in this case.”
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