Tuesday, September 11, 2001

Boy, 11, fit for trial in sister's death

Ruling on second suspect delayed

By Dan Horn
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        A judge ruled Monday that an 11-year-old boy is competent to stand trial in Hamilton County Juvenile Court in the slaying of his 8-year-old sister.

        Judge Sylvia Hendon made the decision after two psychologists said the boy understood the charges against him and could assist his lawyer in his defense.

        But the judge delayed a decision in the case of a 13-year-old boy who also is accused in the slaying. Two psychologists came to different conclusions about his competency. Another hearing in his case will be held today.

        Neither boy is being identified because of their ages.

        The two are accused of killing Takeya Bryant at her Northside home on Aug. 15.

        Prosecutors say the older boy, Takeya's cousin, was baby-sitting at the time. They say Takeya was sexually assaulted and beaten to death.

        At the juvenile court hearing Monday, Judge Hendon expressed frustration about the lack of standards to define compe tence of children accused of crimes.

        Because there are no clear standards, psychologists must base their decisions on interviews, intelligence tests and guidelines that normally are used in cases involving adults.

        “We're proceeding into an area that the state of Ohio does not even address,” the judge said. “It puts an enormous burden on us to reach a conclusion. We are swimming in deep and murky waters.”

        In adult cases, competency is measured in part by a defendant's ability to understand the charges against him and to assist in his defense.

        If a defendant is not competent, a judge would order him to a treatment facility where he would be “restored” to competency prior to trial.

        For children, however, the issue is more complex. Measuring competency is more difficult because children simply don't know as much about the justice system.

        And if a child is found to be incompetent, there are very few facilities in the country that could restore him to competency.

        Judge Hendon delayed the 13-year-old's hearing so she could hear from social service workers about possible treatment options.



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