By Martin J. Kidston
She enjoys school; she likes to learn, and she's into the same quirks as most 15-year-old girls. The only difference is, this girl has been charged as an accomplice in a double homicide.
While 15-year-old Francine Spang stands accused of two counts of deliberate homicide under the felony murder rule and a host of other charges, her attorney, Stephen A. Gannon, maintains that the only thing Francine Spang is guilty of is being in the wrong place at the wrong time.
As the system of justice spins its legal wheels towards a verdict of guilty or innocent, Gannon said he is concerned with Spang's well-being, and her future which, he believes, can be placed on track provided that she's placed in a positive environment.
In order to proceed towards that positive environment, at Spang's arraignment last Wednesday Gannon requested that she be placed in the Florence Critteron Home in Helena. There, Gannon argued, Spang would receive proper counseling and be able to pursue her education.
"She's been in the juvenile detention center for two months now," Gannon said. "It's not appropriate for a long-term stay. But she's doing the best that can be expected, although she's frustrated with the process. We'd like to see her get counseling."
Gannon said that because Francine allegedly played witness to the murder of Kristi Walker and Kevin Caplette on Sept. 16, the recollection of that night continues to haunt her. Consequently, she needs more counseling than what she's receiving at the detention center.
"She doesn't receive a lot of counseling, not as much as I think she might need," Gannon said. "We're trying to work with probation and parole, and family services, but nobody wants to do anything until the end of this trial. I think that may be a mistake."
Gannon said Spang enjoys school and likes to learn, although she's had some difficulties in school in the past. However, the detention center in which she's currently incarcerated does not offer any education, and where rehabilitation is concerned, Gannon hopes to get her to a facility where that could change.
When it comes to Spang's role in the crime, Gannon is reluctant to discuss details. However, he maintains that the 15-year-old is innocent of the crimes with which she has been charged.
"She's a 15-year-old girl who, in my view, was in the wrong place at the wrong time," Gannon said. "She's not the best kid in the world, but she's certainly not guilty of what they have charged her with."
As for now, Gannon said he believes that Spang is suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and places her mental health as a high priority.
"It's a difficult thing for anyone to go through, let alone a 15-year-old girl," Gannon said. "She's lonely. She's had a troubled life."