March 14, 2013

Hearing could determine whether 11-year-old goes on trial

By Eric Russell erussell@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

(Continued from page 1)

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Brooklyn Foss-Greenaway

Contributed photo

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In this October 2012 file photo, Amanda Huard and attorney John Youney enter Skowhegan District Court. Huard's daughter Kelli Murphy, 11, has been charged with manslaughter in the death of Brooklyn Foss-Greenaway.

Staff photo by David Leaming

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Beyea, at the law school, agreed that competency hearings for juveniles often involve sensitive information, “beyond the scope of what you would see in an adult proceeding.”

Maine’s juvenile code is centered around rehabilitation, Beyea said, so at some point a juvenile will be released from custody, no matter how serious the conviction.

Assistant Attorney General Andrew Benson, who is prosecuting the case for the state, opposed Martin’s request to close the competency hearing.

He wrote that the defense “either ignores or minimizes three things; first, that proceedings on juvenile felony proceedings are open to the public by statute; second, the strong public policy interest in having such proceedings open to the press and other members of the public; and third, the fact that there is no provision in the juvenile code authorizing closed proceedings.”

Benson argued that the Legislature’s intent was obvious when it updated the statute two years ago. If it meant for competency hearings to be closed for juveniles, he said, it would “have made such a pronouncement plainly, without the tortured interpretation of somewhat inexact language currently relied upon by the juvenile defendant.”

Laverdiere disagreed in his order, dated Feb. 25, and said the competency hearing "cannot be considered an adjudicatory proceeding.“

Not only is it likely that much of the sensitive information uncovered during competency examinations will not be relevant to the public portions of the suspended juvenile matters, but also the juvenile competency statute explicitly renders information disclosed by the juvenile in the context of the examination inadmissible at the adjudicatory stage of a juvenile proceeding,” the judge concluded.

Laverdiere also wrote that revealing highly sensitive mental health and mental acuity information about the juvenile risks undermining the rehabilitative goals of Maine’s juvenile justice system.

Benson, however, argued that the competency hearing “could well be the final and most important step in the proceeding,” if the defendant is found not competent.

“For the court to make such a decision in a secret proceeding would violate the trust imposed by the public in its institutions of justice and diminish their confidence in those institutions,” he wrote.

But Beyea said that if Murphy is found incompetent, it will not be the final decision. The state and the court could request that steps be taken to restore her competency.

Beyea said it would be hard to find anyone so young competent to stand trial in a case so serious.

Eric Russell can be contacted at 791-6344 or at:

erussell@pressherald.com

Twitter: @PPHEricRussell

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