Our departed friend and stalwart Terri Lister, T'wit, showed great concern in the plight of little Haleigh. I wish he were here in person to share, to see the progress of this brave soul.
To think Haleigh was assigned as a futile item unworthy of life, and the government actually started the process to kill her! The same agency, defeated in its bid, still keeps her like property and isolates her.
SPRINGFIELD - Fourteen-year-old Haleigh Poutre has gone in three years from unresponsive, brain-damaged victim to potential key witness in a child abuse trial against her stepfather.
Because of that change, Alan J. Black, defense lawyer for the stepfather, Jason D. Strickland, told a judge yesterday in Hampden Superior Court that he will question the competency of the former Westfield girl, who is now residing in a Boston rehabilitative hospital. He said he needs to have experts determine whether she can remember anything that happened to her despite the severe brain trauma she experienced.
Black said that Haleigh had gone from "someone thought to be mentally deceased" to someone allegedly making statements implicating Strickland.
Along with being the impetus for a major overhaul of the state's child protection system, the case received much attention because Haleigh was initially the subject of an attempt by the state to remove a feeding tube that was keeping her alive. The state Department of Social Services, acting on medical advice that the girl had no chance of recovery, requested to have life support measures withheld, and the state Supreme Judicial Court agreed. But, before the decision to end life support was implemented, the child began to improve.
Strickland, 34, is charged with assault and battery on a child with substantial bodily injury, assault and battery on a child with bodily injury, three counts of assault and battery with a dangerous weapon and one count of assault and battery. He has pleaded innocent to all charges.
At yesterday's pre-trial hearing, Judge Judd J. Carhart asked Assistant District Attorney Laurel H. Brandt if Haleigh is expected to testify in trial. Brandt said, "I am hopeful she will testify."
No direct information about the girl's condition is available because of the secrecy surrounding the events that have transpired since she was first brought to Noble Hospital on Sept. 11, 2005, with a brain injury. The last public information given out about Haleigh was that she was receiving therapy at the Franciscan Hospital for Children in Boston and was in the custody of the state social services agency.
Strickland and his wife, Holli A. Strickland, who was Haleigh's adoptive mother, were arrested soon after she was brought to Noble Hospital and charged with assault. Holli Strickland died within days in what West Springfield police said was a murder-suicide with her grandmother.
Black told Carhart that he needs access to a wide range of medical and psychological records relating to Haleigh in order to prepare for Strickland's trial, which is set for Oct. 11.
The defense lawyer said he needs records from each place she was treated to discern her medical status at each point and determine her ability to recall what happened. "This is not a fishing expedition," Black said. "This is a clear case of a girl saying things she didn't say before, couldn't say before."
A new date of Aug. 19 was set to discuss further access to medical information.
Black also is looking for records of some treatment at facilities, such as a Westfield counseling organization, prior to the girl's hospitalization.
After hearing from various parties, Carhart said he will appoint a guardian to represent Haleigh's interests in the trial because issues of release of medical and psychological records are being discussed.
BOSTON - State legislators yesterday approved a bill that creates a powerful advocate for children in the governor's office and establishes other changes to provide early detection and prevention of child abuse.
Rep. Cheryl A. Coakley-Rivera, D-Springfield, said the abuse case of Haleigh Poutre of Westfield, now 14, horrified people and motivated legislators to approve the legislation to protect children in the custody of the state. She was leading sponsor of the legislation.
The bill includes measures aimed at improving the state's response to reports of child abuse and neglect.
Under the bill, if there are three or more reports of suspected neglect or abuse against a child, the state would need to notify local police and the district attorney.
The bill creates an Office of Child Advocate under the governor. The office would be independent of state agencies and could launch its own investigations of serious injuries to children in state custody.
Haleigh's case sparked criticism that the state Department of Social Services failed to adequately protect her. Starting in 2001, the department received about 20 complaints of abuse and neglect of the girl, but the agency never attempted to remove her from her adoptive home. The agency's then-commissioner said that medical professionals determined her injuries were self-inflicted.........