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Question of Land Ownership

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Question of land ownership

To the Editor:

Green Mountain Power must have set a precedent when they proceeded with construction on the Lowell Wind Project when there was an unresolved land dispute over a portion of the land they were using for construction. In the early morning hours of December 5, 2011, a band of wind opponents made their way up the eastern slope of the Lowell Mountain ridgeline to reclaim land they believed belonged to Don and Shirley Nelson. When law enforcement arrived two or three hours later, six protesters were summarily arrested and charged with criminal trespass.

In August, many were surprised and disappointed that the same judge who had presided over the land dispute in civil court was again sitting on the bench in this criminal trial. The question of land ownership was never resolved in civil court. Two or three years after the land dispute was first introduced the case remains unresolved.

In criminal court the term "lawful possession," a thin sliver of law rarely used in property disputes, was used to convict the Lowell Six of criminal trespass on a sliver of land that is still in dispute. With little instruction from the court, a jury deliberated for two or three hours on a case that was deemed a simple case of criminal trespass.

In a recent 4 to 1 ruling the Vermont Supreme Court decided to keep the status quo and uphold the lower court's decision to convict the Lowell Six of criminal trespass. The lone dissenter, Associate Justice Dooley said, "...nothing would demonstrate a miscarriage of justice more than the criminal conviction for trespass followed by a civil case determination that the land...was owned by the Nelsons..." "Miscarriage of justice" is an apt description for what transpired in the civil and criminal courtrooms of Judge Martin Maley.

Richard Rumery

Newport Center, Vt.


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