A Mount Tabor woman, accused of murdering her husband in December 2016, is asking the court to release her from prison because her trial has been delayed and because of the possibility of being exposed to COVID-19 while in prison.
Peggy Lee Shores, 55, was arraigned in February 2017 in Rutland criminal court on a felony charge of second-degree murder. She has been held without bail since her arraignment.
Shores, through her attorney Steven Howard has maintained her innocence and made an argument to the court that her husband, David Shores, 54, was killed when he tripped on a staircase and accidentally shot himself at their Mount Tabor home.
A police investigation found there was no one else in the house at the time of shooting. Investigators said the forensic evidence suggested the fatal shot could not have come from a gun that David Shores was holding.
Shores has requested to be released from jail while her trial is pending three times but all three requests have been denied. Her latest request is strongly tied to COVID-19.
In a motion filed on May 15, Howard pointed out that Shores had been held in prison for almost three years and three months. He also noted that the case had been ready for trial since at least Jan. 16.
Shores’ trial, which was expected to last two weeks, was scheduled for June 15.
However, based on the declaration of a state of emergency in Vermont because of the pandemic, the Vermont Judiciary postponed all criminal jury trials until they could be resumed safely.
Howard’s motion referred to two events, over a two-day span, that he believed changed the circumstances around Shores’ incarceration.
“On Tuesday, May 12, 2020, the court canceled the June jury trial. The morning of May 14, 2020, (Howard) read the first story of COVID exposure occurring in the facility where (Shores) is being held, which presents to (Shores) a very real danger to her health,” Howard said in the motion.
The motion says that Shane Shores, David Shores’ brother, is willing to allow Peggy Shores to stay with him while she is waiting for the expected trial.
Members of David Shores’ immediate family have appeared at past court proceedings and testified they were willing to provide her with a place to observe a form of home confinement. About a dozen people, many of them directly related to David Shores, have shown up at all of the court appearances for which Peggy Shores was present, audibly showing their support for her.
“Given the amount of time my client has waited and will have to wait for her day in court, the dangers presented by the COVID pandemic, the willingness of Shane Shores to supervise and house (Shores) and the strength of (Shore’s) case, (Shores) feels that it would be appropriate for the court to release her to home confinement with Shane Shores at his home address until this matter can finally be heard,” Howard wrote.
The latter argument, the motion said, was based on information presented to the court last year as part of an effort to have the court dismiss the murder charge based on the findings of an expert hired by Shores. Howard acknowledged the court declined to dismiss but said the expert’s finding were strong enough to show Shore’s case is “far from hopeless at trial,”
Howard filed a second motion in May which said he should have asked for a bail review instead of home confinement in his earlier motion but also noted the court is “empowered to modify its position regarding the issue of bail if there is a postponement of a trial.”
Rose Kennedy, Rutland County state’s attorney, filed a motion on June 11 opposing a change to Shores’ bail status.
The motion argues, in part, the Vermont Department of Corrections has effectively limited the number of COVID cases in its facilities. The motion was filed before the corrections department released information about a number of inmates who had tested positive for COVID but those inmates had been in out-of-state facilities and Shores is being held at the South Burlington jail.
Kennedy rejected the argument that the strength of the state’s case had changed.
“To the contrary, the state’s case against (Shores) is the same now as it ever was and the state intends on offering at trail all pf the evidence that the court used as a factual basis in initially ordering her held,” Kennedy said.
The state also argued the risk of a defendant catching COVID was not related to a “defendant’s risk of flight or danger to the public.”
A bail review hearing has been scheduled for Aug. 26.
Howard declined to comment on Thursday beyond what was in his motions. Kennedy said she would only comment that the state opposed Howard’s motions and she would be ready to defend that position on Aug. 26.