Heather Fawcett was faced with a major dilemma this month: She could either put her family's life at risk or potentially see her alleged attacker walk free. She chose the latter.
According to The Oregonian, a judge has dismissed the assault charges against Pedro Sanchez, an Oregon man who is accused of attacking Fawcett with a hammer five years ago. Sanchez was reportedly convicted of the attack by a 10-2 jury verdict in 2016; however, the conviction was overturned last year after the state began reversing convictions by nonunanimous juries.
The retrial was scheduled to begin on Monday; however, Sanchez's legal team asserted his right to meet Fawcett face-to-face in court, and demanded she testify without a protected mask. Fawcett, who took the stand during the initial trial, reportedly asked the court if she could take the stand while wearing a face covering with a transparent panel, but was told those window masks would not be arrive in time for the trial.
Fawcett, 41, argued that appearing in court without a mask could potentially expose her parents to coronavirus, and she wasn't willing to take that risk. Fawcett is also the only living witness to the alleged crime; the others—her then-boyfriend and his brother—have died since the first trial.
"It’s the second time I’m going through this trial, and now you’re gonna tell me I have to expose my friends and my family and people that I care about and myself to this virus?" Fawcett told The Oregonian.
The woman says she has been assisting her parents—both of whom are over 65—throughout the pandemic, as they each have underlying medical conditions. Fawcett says she helps her parents with the house cleaning, buys groceries for them, and runs various errands; all that would have to temporarily stop if she was to testify without a mask.
"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," she continued. "[And] choose being able to testify on my own behalf or letting him get off and have the charges dropped just because I want to wear a mask to protect myself."