Tuesday, March 11, 2014
SKOWHEGAN — The 11-year-old girl who is accused of killing an infant last year is not competent to stand trial now but likely will be in the future, a judge has ruled.
Kelli Murphy of Fairfield is charged with manslaughter in the death of 3-month-old Brooklyn Foss-Greenaway of Clinton, who died on July 8 while staying overnight at the home of Murphy's mother, Amanda Huard.
In his ruling, Judge Charles LaVerdiere wrote that "at this time, the state has not met its burden of demonstrating that the juvenile is competent to proceed under the standard established by the Maine Juvenile Code." The court papers were signed Thursday and released Friday.
LaVerdiere wrote that "there is a substantial probability that the juvenile will be competent in the foreseeable future."
"Competency looks at what is your status now," said William Stokes, who heads the criminal division of the Attorney General's Office, which is prosecuting the case. "You could be competent today and incompetent next week. In the adult world, people can be made competent through treatment and medication. In a juvenile, age and maturity play a role."
As Murphy matures, "she's going to have a better understanding of the charges, the juvenile system, the judicial system and how to participate and cooperate with her attorney," Stokes said. "That's the concept."
Murphy attended a two-hour, closed-door hearing on March 15 in Skowhegan District Court to determine whether she understood the severity and ramifications of the juvenile manslaughter charge against her. She is the youngest person in Maine to be charged with manslaughter in at least 25 years, police have said.
John Martin, one of the girl's two attorneys, said Friday that he could not say whether he had spoken to her about the ruling.
Murphy is in the custody of the Department of Heath and Human Services.
Dr. Debra Baeder, the State Forensic Service's chief forensic psychologist, examined the girl and wrote a report for the court. Baeder was the only witness to testify during the competency hearing on March 15, according to court documents.
The judge said the report will remain sealed because it contains significant, confidential mental health information pertinent only to the question of the girl's competency to stand trial.
In his ruling, he ordered Murphy to have another forensic examination within 60 days.
Martin said he expects that the attorneys and the judge will confer after the next report and there could be another hearing.
"It continues to be (the state's) burden to prove that she is competent," Martin said, citing the Maine Juvenile Code. "The presumption in the statute is that someone under 14 is not competent."
Huard, Murphy's mother, said Friday that the judge's decision is "good news at this point."
Huard said she had yet to talk to her daughter about it but she had been in regular contact with her.
Nicole Greenaway, the mother of Brooklyn Foss-Greenaway, said that while she didn't know the full implications of the ruling, she realized it would prolong the case.
"I understand she's not competent at this time," Greenaway said. "I don't even know what to say. It baffles me, it really baffles me. This little girl needs a lot of help."
Stokes said he does not know where the DHHS has placed Murphy, but he speculated that she could be in a therapeutic foster home.
Huard called 911 on the night of July 8 to report that the 3-month-old baby was not breathing. The infant had been in a bedroom with Murphy.
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