Competency hearing for 11-year-old charged with manslaughter will be closed to public

Three-month-old Brooklyn Foss-Greenaway of Clinton died July 8, 2012, while under the care of a baby sitter in Fairfield.
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Three-month-old Brooklyn Foss-Greenaway of Clinton died July 8, 2012, while under the care of a baby sitter in Fairfield.
Posted Feb. 25, 2013, at 11:53 a.m.
Last modified Feb. 25, 2013, at 9:44 p.m.

SKOWHEGAN, Maine — A Skowhegan District Court judge has granted the motion to keep private the competency hearing of an 11-year-old girl from Fairfield accused of killing a 3-month-old baby.

Judge Charles LaVerdiere ruled on Monday morning to close the competency hearing of the girl despite an objection from the state to keep it open to the public.

The girl’s competency hearing is scheduled for Thursday.

The girl, who the Bangor Daily News is not naming because she’s a juvenile, is charged with reckless or criminally negligent manslaughter in the death of Brooklyn Foss-Greenaway.

Brooklyn was in the care of the girl’s mother in Fairfield on the night of July 8, 2012. According to the baby’s mother, Nicole Greenaway of Waterville, her infant subsequently was left alone with the then-10-year-old girl.

Greenaway said in August that a toxicology report revealed that medicine for attention deficit disorder was found in Brooklyn’s system. She said it’s the same medication prescribed to the 11-year-old daughter of the baby sitter. There also were bruises on the baby’s face from when she was suffocated, allegedly by the girl, according to Greenaway.

The autopsy report has not yet been made available to the public.

Defense attorney John Martin of Skowhegan requested a competency hearing for the juvenile in October, which was granted. Martin filed a motion on Feb. 19 to keep the hearing closed to the public.

LaVerdiere sided with the defense.

“When read together, it is plain that the competency hearing … is not ‘a proceeding on a juvenile crime’ or part of that proceeding; rather, the competency hearing is a condition precedent to conducting any further proceedings on the juvenile crime once the issue of competency has been raised and the proceedings on the juvenile crime have been suspended,” LaVerdiere wrote in his decision.

A competency hearing is “to see if she … understands what lawyers do, what judges do, what court proceedings are for and so forth,” said Assistant Attorney General Andrew Benson in October.

The state forensic service would perform a competence evaluation of the girl, Benson said at the time the hearing was granted.

“The Juvenile contends that the public right of access to the competency proceeding is outweighed by the juvenile’s right to privacy,” said Martin in the motion to close the hearing. “The evaluation report here describes the juvenile’s mental illness and cognitive defects, her academic record as a child, her social history, and the physical abuse she experienced, all of which are presumed to be expressly closed to the public.”

Benson filed a motion last week to keep the hearing open to the public, contending an open hearing would maintain the public’s confidence in the judicial system.

LaVerdiere said in his ruling that Benson’s argument was persuasive, however, the juvenile has a right to privacy.

“While the state argues persuasively that legislative recognition of the public’s legitimate interest in seeing justice served when juveniles have been charged with serious offenses has been ensconced … similarly persuasive public policy arguments can be made for recognizing that the legislature intended to extend the default presumption of the confidentiality for juvenile hearings to juvenile competency determinations,” said LaVerdiere.

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