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: Arson Trial Moves Out Of County  ( 2266 )
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« : July 27, 2005, 06:33:42 PM »

Published in the Wednesday, July 27, 2005 St. Albans Messenger Relative To The Kenny Jerome Murder:

Arson trial moves out of county

By LEON THOMPSON, Messenger Staff Writer

ST. ALBANS CITY — A local judge has granted change of venue in the upcoming Dennis Harrness arson trial because the defendant's family has been mentioned in media coverage of a recent Sheldon murder.

Late Tuesday morning, Judge Mark Keller ordered that Harrness' trial be moved to St. Johnsbury.

A jury draw for Harrness was scheduled for Aug. 2 at Vermont District Court in St. Albans City. He was to go on trial for allegedly setting fire to his brother Thomas' home in 1999.

The trial has been delayed until September, however, because Vermont District Court in Caledonia County does not have a jury draw scheduled for August.

Dennis Harrness was found guilty in January of counseling his then wife, Jennifer Miller, to burn their mobile home in 2001. In April, he received a two-to-five-year suspended sentence, with probation. Miller, as the state's witness, was granted immunity.

Harrness' attorney, Jim Murdoch, filed for a change of venue after the wave of publicity surrounding the July 7 shooting of Kenneth Jerome on East Sheldon Road negatively linked him to the Harrness family.

Jerome, 33, was driving a tractor and feeding cattle on Diamond Hill Custom Heifers Farm, owned by Terry and Joanne Magnan, when he was shot in the chest from a rock ledge that abuts the farm.

Harrness' parents, Stephen and Shirley, own that ledge; last year, their other son, Thomas, faced charges for allegedly threatening Miller and Jerome, who had a child together last November.

During a hearing late Monday afternoon, Murdoch pointed to numerous newspaper articles about Jerome's murder that described the now well-known tensions between Miller, the Harrnesses, and Jerome. Murdoch also produced news videotape that he said suggests the Harrness' were involved in Jerome's death.

In open court, Murdoch also raised concerns about two items that were seized during a July 8 police search on Harrness property, and how they might affect the upcoming arson trial.

The items - named specifically as "documents" and "handwritten notes on the arson case" - cannot be seen by anyone investigating the arson to Thomas Harrness’ home, according to a ruling made by Keller.

The judge also said those documents must be sealed, and that a copy of them must be given to Dennis Harrness.

Last week, the state won a bid to withhold some information from the search warrants executed during the murder investigation.

The information that was sealed is new, or still under Investigation (see accompanyjng story).

Murdoch has also renewed a motion to suppress recorded conversations between Miller and Dennis Harrness about the fire at Thomas Harrness' residence. Keller has the motion under advisement.

Henry Raymond
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