We can provide very few details because of the obvious sensitivity of the case, but the challenge before the legal system is real enough: How to try, and how to sentence a 10-year old girl for manslaughter? A question that would not have haunted less-developed countries, because they would have treated the incident simply as accidental – at least it would not have made to the police and courts.
However, the justice system, the prosecutors, and judges in Maine are in a fix for now as they cannot find a precedent and are pouring over books of jurisprudence and seeking to find a lead on how such a case had been tried, ever, anywhere in the world. So, if any reader has got a clue to that, your opinions may help out the lot of this child as well as that of the courts in Maine.
Nobody can remember a case when a 10-year old child was tried for manslaughter.
The girl’s name is withheld by the government for clear reasons, and she is currently in the custody of the Department of Health and Human Services in Maine. Further than that her location is not known. The government wouldn’t divulge whether she is in a foster home or some other facility, and we won’t like to probe. The first court date in the case is scheduled in October.
The 10-year girl child from Fairfield is charged with actions that killed a three-month old baby in July while the girl’s mother was babysitting the infant. The mother was present at the time of death, the police were called in, the criminal case was registered, the 10-year girl child was arrested and now tucked away in the labyrinthine depths of the state system awaiting trial and sentencing.
The issues, as expressed by former prosecutor and District Attorney David Crook of Waterville, include whether the 10-year old child was really able to understand that her actions could harm or kill the baby, and in the event of finding the child guilty – what sentence should be imposed.
As Crook put it: “What should a judge do? … I wouldn’t want to be that judge.”
However, Crook says, the real question is “How does the state make this child capable of re-entering society as a better child and ultimately a better adult?”
At least in this case, the legal system would have to prove to itself and to the public the purpose and meaning of its existence in promoting and maintaining a criminal justice system – rehabilitation, punishment, or betterment of the individual – where does state authority begin and end?