A Vermont jury acquitted a woman charged with attempted murder of a police officer on Friday. Although the jury’s mere two hour deliberation makes this seem like a clear-cut case, many people involved would disagree.
Jennifer Berube and her former husband were arrested on December 27, 2012 on misdemeanor charges of credit card theft. Berube’s husband, John MacLean III, had been in prison before and told Berube that he would rather die than be locked up again. Shortly after the two were checked into jail, Berube thought she heard MacLean making good on those words.
“I could hear my husband trying to hang himself in his cell,” she said in court, according to the Time Argus. “I could hear his boot laces coming out and I heard him gagging.”
Desperate to save her husband, she devised a plan to free him. She planned to confront Officer Damon Nguyen with a two-inch knife she had snuck into jail and intimidate him into handing over his cell keys. At least, that’s what she testified in court. Others who have seen video footage of the incident believe it is clear Berube was trying to kill Nguyen.
Footage shows Berube throwing her hands around Nguyen’s neck and struggling with him violently. Eventually, she was restrained by several other officers. Nguyen suffered a cut near his jugular vein from Berube's knife.
Following the melee, Berube was charged with attempted murder and attempted aggravated assault with serious bodily injury. After three days of trial hearings, the jury cleared her of both charges.
“The verdict was correct in light of the evidence provided at trial,” said Berube’s defense attorney, Daniel Sedon. “Jen is completely vindicated.”
Sedon argued that if Berube intended to kill Nguyen, she easily could have done so.
“She’s a [registered nurse]. She knows how to use a knife. If she wanted to kill she would have plunged the knife right in,” he said. “What you’re seeing is a poorly thought out, stupid, harebrained, dangerous plan to threaten a law enforcement officer and thereby obtain his keys.”
Both Rutland Mayor Christopher Louras and Rutland Police Chief James Baker disagree with that assessment.
“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,” Louras said. “I’m not convinced justice was served in this case.”
Baker shared similar sentiments.
“The video was pretty clear,” he said. “The evidence was pretty clear. But depending on where you sit it’s possible to have different perspectives.”
No one commented directly on the peculiar fact that Berube was even acquitted of her attempted assault charge.