Once-comatose girl may testify in case

Sept. 28, 2008 at 6:02 PM

SPRINGFIELD, Mass., Sept. 28 (UPI) -- Prosecutors in Massachusetts say a brain-damaged girl once nearly taken off life support while in a coma should be allowed to testify against her stepfather.

The Boston Globe reported Sunday that prosecutors in Springfield have asked a judge to allow testimony from 14-year-old Haleigh Poutre, who nearly died after three years ago.

The Oct. 29 trial of Poutre's stepfather, Jason Strickland, who was charged with physically assaulting Poutre after she was checked into a hospital in 2005 with severe head injuries that led to brain damage. The girls' adoptive mother also was charged but died in an murder-suicide pact with her grandmother.

Before charging the couple, state officials had thought the child suffered from a disorder that caused her to harm herself. Strickland had fought to prevent his stepdaughter from being removed from life-support equipment.

Hamden County Superior Court Judge Judd Carhart will be asked to make a determination of the teen's cognitive abilities and whether she is fit to testify.

Marylou Sudders of the Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children told the Globe she was hopeful Carhart would take all precautions if he approves Poutre's court appearance.

"I just hope that if she is deemed competent to testify, the judge provides her with support to mitigate any psychological impact," the society president said.

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