ANNAPOLIS -- Maryland's highest court will hear for the second time the sexual assault case of a former Howard County day-care operator.

In overruling a previous state appellate court decision last spring, the U.S. Supreme Court said the state Court of Appeals should re-examine the Sandra Craig case using narrower guidelines.

A Howard County Circuit Court jury had convicted Craig in April 1987 of sexually molesting a 6-year-old at the former Craig's Country Pre-School in Clarksville.

The Court of Appeals overturned the ruling in 1989, saying that the trial judge improperly allowed four child witnesses to testify on closed-circuit television from outside the courtroom instead of requiring them to confront Craig.

The court said Circuit Judge Raymond Kane erroneously relied only on the testimony of therapists that the children would face severe emotional distress if forced to testify in court.

It said Kane should have interviewed the children to determine whether they were able to testify without closed-circuit television.

But the Supreme Court ruled 5 to 4 in June that people charged with child abuse are not always entitled to face-to-face confrontations with their young accusers.

The state attorney general's office said Monday that the new hearing will take place in January.