New trial begins in Vt. murder case

By Lisa Rathke
Associated Press / February 5, 2009
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HYDE PARK, Vt. - A man whose murder conviction was thrown out after he boycotted his trial went on trial again yesterday, with his lawyer telling jurors he suffers from a paranoid personality disorder and was protecting himself when he shot a neighbor to death.

"This is not a whodunit case. It's more like why dunit," said defense lawyer Daniel Maguire.

But Lamoille County State's Attorney Joel Page said Dennis Tribble intentionally shot Michael Borello, 43, five times - firing even as Borello tried to get away.

"The defendant's explanation of what happened is inconsistent . . . with the evidence found at the scene and wounds found on his body," Page told jurors.

The only other witness, Borello, can't tell his side of the story, Page said. "The wounds on his body will speak to you. The evidence . . . will speak to you," he said in his opening statement of the trial in District Court.

Tribble, 58, of Wolcott, refused to participate in his first trial in 2002.

He fired three court-appointed lawyers before the first trial, and a judge who refused to assign a fourth lawyer told Tribble to represent himself. Tribble did not, however. He didn't attend that trial and was convicted without setting foot in court.

But the Vermont Supreme Court threw out the guilty verdict three years ago, saying that having Tribble represent himself violated constitutional standards.

Yesterday, Tribble sat at the defense table, conferring occasionally with Maguire.

The shooting occurred after Tribble had complained to police, environmental authorities, and the town about the Borellos, who he said tore up the road with vehicles, brought drugs into the neighborhood, fired guns, and burned trash, which he believed polluted his water.

"We depend on others in order to live peacefully and quietly . . . We rely on our neighbors to obey the rules so that we can enjoy our homes in peace and tranquility," Maguire said.

Under questioning from Page, Borello's widow, Joanne Ainsworth, said she was not aware of any problem she and her family had with Tribble except that he had complained about their son "peeling out" in front his house, which Michael Borello talked to their son about, she said.

She also said she was aware of marijuana use in the neighborhood, including occasionally by her husband, but not any hard drugs.

"I didn't care for it . . . but it helped him to eat," she said of his marijuana use. He was often sick to his stomach since having hernia surgery, she added.

The shooting occurred after a dispute in which Borello confronted Tribble as he was cutting firewood by the road, Maguire said.

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