PORTLAND, Maine (NEWS CENTER) -- Over the past 10 years or so, states have been trying to determine the best way to handle cases where children are accused of violent crime.
Last year, Maine reworked its statute on the competency of juveniles, and a young person's age can come into play if a forensics expert feels the person is not developmentally ready to understand court.
To stand trial, a minor has to be able to understand how court works, and has to be capable of actively participating in his or her defense. If the child is under 14, the state must prove that the child is competent. Otherwise, the burden of proof is on the defense.
Chris Northrup, a law professor who specializes in juvenile defense at The University of Southern Maine, says he thinks it will be tough to prove the competency of a girl this young.
Northrup said, "It's going to be a question about whether this is a child who can be remediated within a reasonable amount of time. I think it's going to be a difficult case to take to trial, but I don't know that much about the child or about the case."
If the girl is found to be competent, the court will likely make allowances for her, like frequent breaks. The court also likely would have a person there to explain legal language to her.
If she is not found competent, the judge can dismiss the case and put her in DHHS custody, or the judge can wait on the case to see if she'll become developmentally ready to stand trial in the near future.