A judge in Oregon (of course) agreed to dismiss charges against a hammer attack suspect because the victim wanted to wear a Covid mask while testifying, and that is apparently a violation of the defendant’s right to face his accuser.
Originally charged in 2015 for the incident, Pedro Sanchez Jr, now 59, was convicted of second degree assault in 2017 on a 10-2 jury verdict, and was sentenced to 6 years in state prison. But the Oregon Supreme Court overturned the ruling this past summer after the federal Supreme Court ruled that Oregon can no longer convict on 10-2 jury votes. The case was remanded to a retrial.
The victim, Heather Fawcett, had been in fear of Sanchez, as he had vowed to hunt her and her dog down. She cares for her senior parents, who are immune compromised, and she refuses to go anywhere without her Covid mask on. This came to a head when she informed the courts that she would testify while wearing the mask. Sanchez’s attorney, D. Olcott Thompson, filed a motion for dismissal, arguing that this violations Sanchez’s 6th Amendment rights.
In response, deputy district attorney Michelle Enfield apparently did a craptastic job of explaining the situation, as Judge Jennifer Chapman, a former attorney for labor unions, granted the motion to dismiss the case, but then said she didn’t fully understand what was going on.
Heather Fawcett is living in fear in Yamhill County. That’s because the man once convicted of hitting her in the head with a sledgehammer walked out of prison on Monday.
“Last thing he said to me was, ‘I’ll kill you and your dog someday,'” said Fawcett between tears. “I just have to be careful, be aware, carry mace and hope.”
Fawcett’s is a complicated case.
Its most recent twist wraps around defendants’ rights laws and COVID-19. Back in 2016, a Yamhill County jury voted 10-2 to convict Pedro Sanchez of second-degree assault in the alleged attack against Fawcett. He was sentenced to almost six years in prison. But last year, that conviction was overturned after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that Oregon could no longer allow convictions on jury verdicts that weren’t unanimous. A retrial was scheduled for Monday, Jan. 25. Leading up to it, Fawcett said she made concerns over COVID-19 safety clear to Yamhill County Court officials.
“I told them four months ago I would not enter any courtroom without a mask on under any circumstances, no matter what happened,” Fawcett said.
Fawcett said Sanchez then filed a motion requesting Fawcett not wear a mask during the trial. The judge granted it under Sanchez’s right to meet his accuser face-to-face.
In a statement, Yamhill County Judge Jennifer Chapman told KGW she didn’t know Fawcett had safety concerns about testifying without a mask.
Fawcett, who cares for her parents who are both over 65, said she wouldn’t risk their health or hers by going mask-less in the courtroom. She also said the District Attorney’s office told her a clear mask wouldn’t arrive in time for the trial.
On Monday morning, when Fawcett didn’t show up to court, the state filed a motion to dismiss the case because of no witness availability. Judge Chapman granted the motion, but again said at the time she didn’t know why Fawcett was a no-show. Later that day, Pedro Sanchez walked out of prison.
It should also be pointed out that Governor Kate Brown’s mask order remains in effect.
Though it’s difficult to confirm if it’s the same guy, according to court records a Pedro Sanchez with the same birth year has had many previous run-ins with the law in Oregon, and happened to have no cases filed during the time he was serving his prison sentence: