Psychologist Testifies That Arson Suspect Is Not Retarded

September 25, 1991|By Maria Archangelo | Maria Archangelo,Staff writer

WESTMINSTER — A 35-year-old man is not mentally retarded and understood the consequences when he confessed to setting a fire that killed a man last April, a psychologist testified in Carroll Circuit Court yesterday.

Dr. Lawrence Donner of Pikesville gave his opinion during nearly four hours of testimony in a hearing to determine if statements John Woodward made to police were voluntary and legally obtained.

Woodward is a former resident of the apartment building at 88 W. Main St. he is accused of setting on fire. The April 24 blaze killed 49-year-old Carvin "Big Joe" Hanna, caused an estimated $100,000 damage to

the apartment building and left 12 people homeless.

In addition to the arson charges, Woodward also is charged with first-degree murder in Hanna's death.

Donner, chairman of the Maryland Boardof Examiners of Psychologists, was one of several experts testifyingon Woodward's mental capacity and intelligence.

Their testimony was the focus of a hearing before Circuit Judge Raymond E. Beck to suppress statements Woodward made to Westminster Police Detective Lt. Dean Brewer, Deputy State Fire Marshal Frank Rauschenberg and Deputy State's Attorney Edward Ulsch on May 15.

Woodward's attorney, J. Barry Hughes of Westminster, said he believes his client felt pressured into making incriminating state

ments because he believed Brewer and Rauschenberg were his friends because he knew them on a first-namebasis.

Hughes also contends the statements should be thrown out because Woodward did not understand his Miranda rights.

Another Pikesville psychologist, Dr. David Shapiro, testified Monday that Woodward had an IQ in the mentally retarded range and could not have understood the consequences of his confession.

But Donner testified thatafter giving Woodward almost seven hours of psychological tests, he believes nothing in Woodward's history suggests retardation because he was "able to do jobs and functions that require more ability."

Donner said Woodward "may have a learning disability but certainly is not retarded."

In his taped statements, Woodward said he set some papers on fire on the building's porch to get "revenge" on Charles "Chicken Charlie" Ogline, a vagrant who often slept there on a couch.

But in court yesterday, Woodward said he did not set papers afire, but ignited a smoke bomb and threw it near Ogline to make him move.

Woodward said he watched the smoke bomb burn out before returning to his apartment.

He said he heard yelling in the building 20 to 30minutes later when the building was ablaze.

Ogline, who escaped safely, originally was charged with setting the fire, but the charges against him have been dropped.

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