This week we’ve learned Katrina Mitchell has asked that a jury decide whether she endangered the welfare of her infant daughter, Annabelle, when the family’s dog mauled the child to death as her mother was intoxicated and sleeping nearby, according to police.

We have, in past editions, run editorials criticizing some Waldo County jury panels for their decisions to acquit some local defendants over the years — Jerome Reynolds, who was found not guilty of murder following the 2004 shooting death of 60-year-old Janet Bacon, and Michael Nickerson, who was tried and acquitted of all charges in the 2006 stabbing death of his brother Charles, are two examples. In those instances, we stand behind our opinions.

While Mitchell’s case differs because she is not facing a murder, manslaughter or aggravated assault charge, it is one that stirs strong feelings in the community because it involves the death of a child.

From this community will come all the potential jurors, and should the trial move ahead here in Waldo County, we are hopeful that the jury selection process will result in a panel that has a wide range of views as to what constitutes child endangerment. This will allow for more thorough analysis of the facts in the case, and create an environment where cool heads and careful consideration can pave the way for the most fair decision to be arrived at.

We recently ran a story including comments from the Maine Attorney General’s Office explaining why Mitchell is not being charged with manslaughter, in which the DA raised questions about Maine’s laws regarding child endangerment. The article explored one aspect of the law and hopefully answered some questions that readers had after Mitchell’s arrest. It also revealed that the law allows for a narrow spectrum of verdicts. The maximum sentence Mitchell could receive would be just under a year in jail, two years probation and a $2,000 fine.

So, while there are compelling hypothetical arguments and moral stances on all sides of the issue of child endangerment, even if a judge or jury throws the book at Mitchell, the law doesn’t allow for the kind of penalty that Reynolds and Nickerson apparently dodged in their cases. This leaves the court of public opinion, which must be satisfied with the ruling or seek to change the laws, but may do neither.

In any situation that involves the death of a young child, the public is quick to share opinions about it. These soon appear in every realm, from online comment boards and Facebook to chatter at the local store and letters to the local newspaper. And because it is the nature of our profession, members of the media are just as quick to publicize — and analyze — the details of these kinds of cases.

As a result of that almost immediate dissemination of information — ranging from hard facts to pure, speculative opinions based on assumptions, biases or otherwise — the court of public opinion goes into session long before the legal case is heard. Just as there are those who firmly believe that the charge against Mitchell is too lenient given the severity of her alleged actions, there are others who feel equally strongly that the Mitchells, with the death of their little girl, have suffered enough.

We hope for a fair trial of Katrina Mitchell, and whether she is tried by a judge or jury, we hope that the case brings out enough evidence in the case for the public to be, at the very least, informed.