Vermont v. RoyAnnotate this Case
The Vermont Supreme Court withdrew its July 6, 2018 opinion in this matter, determining the State did not have a statutory right to appeal in this case. Defendant Liana Roy was charged with custodial interference for taking her four-year-old daughter, who was then in custody of the Department for Children and Families (DCF), on a two-day trip out of the state without DCF’s permission. After the State rested its evidence at trial, defendant moved for a judgment of acquittal, arguing the evidence failed to demonstrate that she interfered with DCF’s custody to the degree necessary for 13 V.S.A.2451 to apply. At most, defendant argued, this was just “a visit gone bad.” The court denied this motion, holding that the State established the essential elements of its case. After defendant presented her evidence and the State called a rebuttal witness, the State rested and defendant renewed her motion for a judgment of acquittal. The court again denied the motion. The jury convicted. Defendant subsequently moved to set aside the verdict, V.R.Cr.P. 29(c), or for a new trial, V.R.Cr.P. 33, arguing that nothing in the custody order specifically put defendant on notice that she was acting in violation of the authority of the legal custodian, so the State had failed to demonstrate the requisite intent to deprive or interfere with DCF’s custody. The trial court agreed and issued a written decision in July 2017 granting defendant’s motion for a judgment of acquittal. The court noted that “the jury’s verdict was reasonable” based on the instructions given during the trial. But the court explained that it had erred in not instructing the jury that, to prove custodial interference when DCF is the custodian, the State must produce evidence of “a court order . . . detail[ing] the parent-child contact parameters.” In this amended opinion, the Supreme Court considered whether the State had a statutory right to appeal the trial court’s post-guilty-verdict judgment of acquittal, and, if not, whether the Supreme Court should use its authority pursuant to Vermont Rule of Appellate Procedure 21 to grant the State the extraordinary remedy of reversing the trial court’s ruling and reinstating the guilty verdict. The Court concluded the State did not have a statutory right to appeal in this case, and declined to exercise its authority to grant extraordinary relief.