Rutland County State’s Attorney Rose Kennedy is asking the local criminal court not to dismiss a murder charge against a Mount Tabor woman and let the jury make that decision instead.
Peggy Lee Shores, 53, of Mount Tabor, was arraigned in Rutland criminal court in February 2017 on a felony charge of second-degree murder after police accused her of shooting and killing her husband, David Shores, 54, in their home in December 2016.
Last month, Shore’s’ attorney, Steven Howard, filed a motion asking the court to dismiss the murder charge against his client.
Howard’s motion was based on the findings of a forensics expert working for Shores’ defense. The forensic consultant, Christopher Robinson, prepared a one-page report that said he concluded David Shores “died as a result of self-inflicted gunshot wound to the chest.”
The state responded this week with a request that Shores’ motion be denied.
The state’s response, submitted by Kennedy and Travis Weaver, a Rutland County Deputy State’s Attorney, repeats the state’s theory of the case. While Peggy Shores told police her husband was holding a gun, fell and accidentally shot himself, the response said evidence gathered by the Vermont medical examiner and Vermont State Police officers who investigated the shooting concluded that David Shores could not have been holding the gun.
Kennedy’s response cites the Vermont standard for ruling on a motion to dismiss, which includes the description that the evidence should be “taken in the light most favorable to the state and excluding modifying evidence.”
While the response raises questions about Robinson’s conclusions, the prosecutors argued it’s not the point.
“Even if taken at face value, Mr. Robinson’s testimony creates contradictory evidence that will need to be be resolved by a jury, as the trier of fact. As such, it is modifying evidence and should not be considered by the court in deciding a motion to dismiss,” the response said.
Kennedy and Weaver said in their response the state has other evidence they intend to use if the case goes to trial.
“The state intends to corroborate this evidence with its own analysis of the trajectory, which shows that the location of the bullet, the entry wound and the exit wound would be consistent with David Shores being shot while standing at the bottom of the stairs by a shooter standing near the top of the stairs,” the response said.
The prosecutors said they intend to challenge Robinson’s status as an expert witness if the case goes to trial. They said Robinson “currently makes his living working as a paid-for-hire witness for defense attorneys” who has a “bias to produce a defense-friendly report.”
If the judge in the case schedules an evidentiary hearing, the prosecutors in the state’s attorney’s office plan to respond by calling investigators from Vermont law-enforcement agencies who would defend the conclusions in the police affidavit, according to the response.
“None of this should be necessary. The evidence proffered by (Peggy Shores) is clearly modifying evidence under Stolte and Breer (precedent-setting cases.) (Shores) is asking the court to weigh various types of scientific evidence against each other and to decide on the credibility of competing expert witnesses. These are precisely the questions that our system reserves for the jury,” the response said.
A hearing was scheduled in Rutland criminal court Tuesday in response to the motions, but Weaver told the court Kennedy wasn’t available and asked the hearing be moved to Wednesday. Many law-enforcement staff were busy Tuesday because of an officer-involved shooting that took place in downtown Rutland.
Howard said he was not opposed to moving the hearing to Wednesday.
According to court records, the judge asked court staff Wednesday to find a day that was open for arguments on both motions. The date had not yet been scheduled as of Friday afternoon, but a conference scheduled in the case for next week has been canceled.
Peggy Shores has been held in jail since she was arraigned in February 2017.