Accused Murderer Cites Hospital As Killer

July 14, 1991|By Maria Archangelo | Maria Archangelo,Staff writer

TOWSON — A former boxer accused of beating a Baltimore man to death used allegations of medical malpractice at Carroll County General Hospital in his defense last week in Baltimore County Circuit Court.

James Kevin Malone, 30, of Reisterstown was charged with second-degree murder and battery in connection with the death of Ronald Nelson Cardwell, a42-year-old construction contractor.

A jury found Malone not guilty of the charges Wednesday after 1 1/2 hours of deliberation.

Prosecutors claimed Malone -- a former boxer in the Marines -- dealt Cardwell fatal blows last Sept. 20, by slamming his head into the ground during a 10:45 p.m. fight in front of the 15 Mile House bar on Reisterstown Road in Reisterstown.

Malone's attorney, Bruce C. Hill of Baltimore, argued that the actions ofthe hospital emergency room staff -- not Malone -- were responsible for Cardwell's death. But a state medical examiner disputed that claim, saying Cardwell died of brain injuries he received in the fight.

Cardwell was taken by ambulance to Carroll County General after thefight because Baltimore County General Hospital was too busy, according to court records.

Cardwell, who was semi-conscious when he reached the hospital, was found dead by a nurse at 5:20 a.m. Sept. 21.

The defense presented the expert testimony of Dr. Douglas Miller, aneuropathologist at New York University Hospital.

"The failure ofthe personnel at Carroll County General Hospital to properly evaluate this man (Cardwell) is then, in my opinion, the true cause of death," wrote Miller in court records. "It represents one of the most blatant examples of substandard medical practice Ihave yet seen."

Miller said the emergency room staff erred when they sedated Cardwell with Haldol, a powerful medicine whose effects mimic symptoms of diseases of the nervous system.

Miller said the Physician's Desk Reference says Haldol should not be given to patients who have been drinking alcohol. Medical records showed Cardwell's blood-alcohol level was .19, above the legal limit for intoxication.

The doctor also criticized the hospital for never taking an X-ray of Cardwell's lacerated face and head and for leaving him unattended for several hours. He was tied face down with restraints because he was belligerent to the hospital staff when he was brought in.

"The whole point of this (medical care) is to prevent exactly the type of outcome such as occurred with Mr. Cardwell," Miller wrote.

Miller said he studied pathology reports, the state medical examiner's report, and hospital records toreach his opinion.

State Medical Examiner Frank Peretti, who testified on behalf of the state, disputed Miller's claims and said he found no trace of Haldol in Cardwell's system.

Peretti said his office screens for drugs during autopsies and that none was found in Cardwell.

Hill said he "found that hard to believe," since it was written in the hospital records that a physician ordered the drug and that it was administered by a nurse.

Peretti also said that it was his opinion that Cardwell died from the head injuries.

Linda Harder,a hospital spokeswoman, said she could not comment on the case on the advice of legal counsel.

A county jury cleared the hospital lastmonth of malpractice charges brought by a Westminster couple whose baby died in the nursery 19 hours after birth. The couple are appealing that decision.

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