Heather Fawcett Pedro Sanchez Oregon hammer attack trial sees suspect set free after victim refuses to testify with face mask in retrial of case.
A suspect in a ‘brutal’ Oregon hammer attack was set free after his alleged victim refused to testify at the man’s assault trial without a face mask amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, according to a report.
Heather Fawcett, who already testified at one trial after being attacked by Pedro Sanchez, declined to take the stand at a retrial after Sanchez’s conviction was overturned, the Oregonian said in a report.
‘It’s the second time I’m going through this trial,’ Fawcett told the outlet. ‘And now you’re gonna tell me I have to expose my friends and my family and people I care about and myself to this virus?”
Sanchez was convicted of second-degree assault in the attack on Fawcett five years ago by a 10-2 jury verdict — with the victim taking the stand against him.
But the conviction was overturned when the US Supreme Court in April overturned an Oregon law that did not require unanimous jury verdicts for convictions.
Hammer attack victim feared potential infection
The retrial was due to begin this week, but Sanchez and his attorneys asserted his right to face his accuser face-to-face — demanding she testify without a mask.
Fawcett, 41, instead said won’t take the chance of a possible infection, saying both her parents are over 65 and in poor health and refuses to risk exposing them to the deadly global pandemic.
The presiding Judge Jennifer Chapman ordered that instead, witnesses in the case must wear a clear face shield and no mask while testifying. When Fawcett asked if she would be permitted to wear a mask with a clear window over the mouth as an alternative to the face shield, she was told they wouldn’t arrive in time for the trial.
The only two other witnesses to the attack — Fawcett’s then-boyfriend and his brother — have both since died, leaving the judge no alternative but to dismiss the case on Monday.
‘I don’t understand why I have to be put at risk and why I have to choose putting myself at risk in this way in order to get justice,’ Fawcett told the Oregonian. ‘(And) choose being able to testify on my own behalf or letting him get off and have the other charges dropped just because I want to war a mask to protect myself.’
Oregon is one of several states with mandatory mask orders in effect, but judges have discretion in ordering removal of the masks to adhere to the ‘face-to-face’ requirement.
Rosemary Brewer, executive director of the Oregon Crime Victims Law Center, said the ruling jeopardizes the rights of crime victims in the state.
‘I’m concerned that courts are not granting victims their rights with the same priority that they are for defendants due to COVID-19,’ Brewer said.
It remained unclear if Sanchez had served any jail time.