ERIE, Pa. — Two young girls accused of brutally attacking another girl on a playground are too emotionally immature to understand the criminal charges against them and the charges should be dismissed, their attorneys said.
The girls, ages 10 and 11, face aggravated assault and other charges for the attack on another 10-year-old girl at an elementary school playground the evening of April 3. The girls are accused of stomping on the victim and breaking her hip, police said.
Erie County Public Defender Tony Logue says he will ask a Juvenile Court judge to dismiss criminal charges against the 10-year-old girl.
"How can my attorney effectively communicate with his clients given the client's chronological age versus emotional age?" Logue said.
Attorney Bruce Sandmeyer said he has similar concerns for his client, the 11-year-old, and expects to file a similar motion in the coming days.
"My client is just 11 years old and just an elementary school student," Sandmeyer said.
The lawyers said the case should be treated as a dependency case, not a delinquency case. In legal terms, a judge who rules a child is dependent can place the child under the supervision of the Erie County Office of Children and Youth.
A delinquency case, which is what the girls currently face, is the juvenile court equivalent of a criminal case. If the girls are found delinquent, the equivalent of a guilty verdict, they could be confined in a juvenile detention facility or otherwise be under the supervision of the court until they turn 21.
Ian Murray, another lawyer for the 10-year-old girl, said she and her family feel deep remorse for the attack. "This is tragic for everyone, especially the victim," Murray said.
Family members of the 11-year-old suspect say she is an "A" and "B" student who has never been in trouble before.
The injured girl said the other girls pulled her off the monkey bars and attacked after she told the girls to stop splashing water on her 8-year-old sister in the school playground. Police said the victim was repeatedly stomped on the head and legs.
The victim remains hospitalized and is expected to undergo at least one week of rehabilitation at a hospital. She has three pins in her hip to keep the bones in place and may eventually need a hip replacement, her mother said.
Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.