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Lawyers For Man Facing Death Penalty Trial Use Sports Betting Ruling In Defense

PASPA Decision Used In Challenge To Federal Capital Murder Trial


Lawyers for a man potentially facing the death penalty for a 2000 murder are trying to use the U.S. Supreme Court’s May sports betting ruling to get him off the hook.

In court documents filed this week, a federal judge denied a challenge to the capital murder trial for Donald Fell, a 38-year-old accused killer from Vermont. According to a report from, his legal team argued in court that SCOTUS’ legal logic for striking down the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act of 1992 is relevant to his case. Fell is slated for trial this fall.

SCOTUS said that PASPA is unconstitutional, paving the way for all states in the country to legalize sports betting if they want to do so. Lawyers for Fell argued, so far unsuccessfully, that the Federal Death Penalty Act is unconstitutional for the same legal reasons PASPA was ruled to be so. PASPA was a states’ rights issue, and Fell’s lawyers argued that the feds can’t force a state (in this case Vermont) to use its resources to carry out a death penalty sentence imposed by the feds. Vermont doesn’t have the death penalty.

Under the old sports betting legal climate, the activity was banned at the federal level and states had to use resources to enforce the prohibition. The SCOTUS ruling basically said that Washington can’t commandeer state resources for national purposes.

The outcome of Fell’s case reportedly is expected to create precedence for this legal argument pertaining to the scope and power of the Federal Death Penalty Act.

In denying the challenge, Judge Geoffrey Crawford of the United States District Court for the District of Vermont said the Federal Death Penalty Act complies with federal law.

Fell’s upcoming trial will be his second for the 18-year-old crime. He was convicted in 2005, but the verdict was overturned in 2014 after juror misconduct was uncovered.