Law: Putting Laymen on the Bench

Vermont supports a controversial system of citizen judges

Violent crime is relatively rare in bucolic, lightly populated Vermont. So when an assailant killed Chiropractor Peter Sophos with a rifle blast to the face last year in Barre, its 9,800 citizens were shocked. Sophos' 18-year-old neighbor, Gordon Hunt, was arrested for the murder the same day. Police said that Hunt told them, "I always wanted to shoot someone."

Despite the angry mood of the community, the prosecutor and defense attorney proposed a plea bargain to Judge James Morse, which he was ready to accept. The...

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