Defense seeks psychiatric records of woman alleging sexual assault

May 06, 1992|By Jackie Powder | Jackie Powder,Staff writer

A Howard County Circuit judge is reviewing the psychiatric records of a woman suffering from multiple-personality disorder to determine if her records should be disclosed to the attorney of a man charged with sexually assaulting her.

The woman alleges that while she was a patient in the psychiatric ward of Howard County General Hospital in June, a hospital employee charged with her care touched her breasts and genital area.

Jeffrey R. Hensen, 22, of the 600 block of Old Liberty Road in Sykesville, was charged with first- and third-degree sex offenses and assault and battery.

The woman had worked in an unspecified job at the hospital at the time of the alleged sexual assault and knew Hensen, court records state.

Hensen's defense lawyer, Jack B. Rubin, has filed motions to block the woman's testimony on the grounds that she is incompetent. Rubin has requested the woman's psychiatric records and has asked the court to permit the defense to conduct its own psychiatric evaluation of her.

The defense argues it is entitled to the records because the woman's mental state will be a central factor in the trial.

Rubin said the state will argue that the woman's mental disability made it impossible for her to consent to the alleged offenses. But consent is not an issue if the woman is mentally disabled, Rubin said.

"We are of the opinion that this lady's emotional and psychiatric history make her unworthy of belief," he said.

Rubin said the woman has at least six personalities, based on partial information he has received about her mental condition.

"On this particular day we don't know which personality was complaining, and at trial I won't know which particular personality will be giving testimony," Rubin said.

Prosecutor Kate O'Donnell maintains that the alleged victim, despite suffering from mental disorders, will be a competent witness.

According to court records, the woman suffers from post-traumatic stress syndrome and multiple-personality disorder, stemming from a history of sexual and physical abuse as a child.

However, O'Donnell said the disorders do not interfere with the woman's ability to know and appreciate the truth. The woman is working with a psychiatrist at Sheppard and Enoch Pratt Hospital in Baltimore to integrate her separate personalities, O'Donnell said.

Judge Cornelius F. Sybert is to issue a decision on June 1, after reviewing the records of the woman's two psychiatrists and her social worker.

The woman claims that the offenses occurred on June 18 in the psychiatric ward of Howard County General Hospital. She had been admitted to the ward the day before for an attempted aspirin overdose on June 15, according to court records.

Hensen, who was working in the emergency room, had been assigned to the ward about 2:30 a.m. Court records state that the woman went to the nurses station about 5:30 a.m. and asked Hensen to check her pulse because she was experiencing an irregular heartbeat.

The woman claims that Hensen said he detected nothing unusual and then placed his hands on her breasts and touched her genital area without her consent.

A short time later, Hensen grabbed the woman's breasts while she was drying herself in the shower room, court records state.

In a police interview, Hensen admitted to touching the woman's breasts as part of the examination procedure while he was checking her heartbeat. According to the statement of charges, Hensen said the woman made advances toward him and he became sexually aroused.

George Barker, a senior vice president and general counsel for ++ Howard County General Hospital, declined to comment on the case.

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