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.
Greenaway has said she was told that her daughter died from suffocation and trace amounts of a prescription medication in her system that matched medication Murphy was taking at the time.
Criminal proceedings in the case have been suspended since late October, when a competency evaluation was ordered.
Under state law, a juvenile who is found incompetent to proceed at trial can be re-evaluated at specified intervals. Once a year has passed from the suspension of proceedings, the state must prove by “clear and convincing evidence there exists a substantial probability that the juvenile will be competent in the foreseeable future.”
Stokes said the judge’s language indicating that Murphy could be competent in the future triggers what happens next.
If there’s a “substantial probability” that a juvenile will be competent in the near future, the Juvenile Court will continue to suspend the criminal case.
Stokes said the state’s goal is not to confine the girl, but to “get her to the point she needs to be to be a functioning member of society.”
The DHHS issued a notice to Huard on Aug. 10, saying its review showed that Huard had neglected the 3-month-old who was left in her care.
The notice also says Huard knew that Murphy, who was then 10 years old, should not be baby-sitting children but Huard continued to allow her to do so. The notice did not explain why the girl should not have been baby-sitting.
Huard has not been charged. Stokes has said that Huard was not charged because prosecutors have a higher burden of proof in a criminal case than DHHS caseworkers have.
According to the notice, Murphy suffers from significant behavioral problems and Huard failed to follow through on the required treatment, including ensuring that the girl was taking medication for attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder, oppositional defiant disorder and attachment disorder.
Doug Harlow can be contacted at 612-2367 or at:
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