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Hearing Held in 11-Year-Old Maine Girl's Manslaughter Case
03/15/2013   Reported By: Jennifer Mitchell

Today a judge in Skowhegan District Court declined to rule on whether an 11-year-old girl is competent to stand trial. The girl, whom MPBN is not identifying, is accused of juvenile manslaughter in the death of an infant last summer. Three-month-old Brooklyn Foss-Greenaway died in a Fairfield home, where the girl's mother was babysitting the infant. The courts must now decide whether she understands the severity of the charges being made against her. Jennifer Mitchell reports.

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Hearing Held in Manslaughter Case of 11-Year-Old M Listen

"It is not uncommon for the judge to take it under advisement, as Judge LaVerdiere did today," says Andrew Benson, the state's attorney prosecuting the case. The state of Maine, he says, believes the girl is competent to stand trial.

The state also objected to the defense's request that the girl's competency hearing be closed to the public. He says that, due to the nature of the alleged offense, it seemed clear that there was nothing in the juvenile code to prevent the public from witnessing the proceedings. However, there does seem to be one small gray area in statute.

"There was some ambiguous language in the statute dealing with juvenile competence proceedings that suggested that provisions or court hearings dealing with competency suspend the operation of the ordinary juvenile code, and that was the provision that the judge chose to cite," Benson says.

What happens now, says Benson, depends on how quickly the judge issues a decision. Both he and the defense will file motions, most likely by the end of next week, and after that, Judge Charles LaVerdiere will issue his written decision.

If Judge LaVerdiere decides that the girl is not competent to stand trial, that's not the end of the proceedings. She could undergo a schedule of "testing" to see whether or not she "becomes" competent in the subsequent months. Either way, the charges will not simply go away.

The question of how to handle such cases is not an easy one. One child is dead, and the defendant is herself a child.

The work of forensic psychologist Dr. Diane Tennies often focuses on such evaluations that involve children and their families.

To hear Dr. Tennies's views on the issue, click the "Listen" button above.


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