More Abuse of Prosecutorial Power CARROLL COUNTY

June 01, 1993

When Carroll's state's attorney asked Springfield Hospital Center for the records of Roy Monroe Robertson, the prosecutors knowingly obtained his medical file under false pretenses.

The office alleged it was investigating a case of "abuse or neglect," when in reality it was investigating the Feb. 18 murder of William C. Prodoehl. This use of deceit to cynically circumvent the state's privacy law does not reflect well on the very officials responsible for enforcing our laws.

Under Maryland law, medical records can be released under three conditions: patient authorization, a court order or a state agency investigating a case of abuse or neglect against a child or vulnerable adult. When Mr. Robertson, who lived with Mr. Prodoehl and his wife, suspected investigators wanted his medical records, he filed a civil suit to stop their release. He and his attorney subsequently discovered that the hospital had already released his records to the county prosecutors.

Carroll State's Attorney Thomas E. Hickman, under whose name the initial request was made, apparently feels justified in settling the case and returning the quarter-century-old file. He claims because the file is only two-pages long, it is not worth the trouble of a long court battle.

Mr. Hickman's reasoning conveniently ignores two facts.

First, his investigators have already seen the file and found it to be useless in their current investigation. Second, had there been a court hearing, his office would have been unable to produce any documentation or evidence that prosecutors were investigating Mr. Robertson for a case of alleged abuse. Instead, the evidence probably would have shown his office was conducting a murder investigation and had lied to get Mr. Robertson's medical file.

State police and prosecutors didn't have to skirt the law in their investigation. Medical records from the late 1960s weren't going to help them develop probable cause for a murder that took place in 1993. Besides, had those files contained important evidence relevant to the current investigation, those records could have been properly obtained through a court order.

Abusive and underhanded use of prosecutorial powers doesn't reflect well on the Carroll County state's attorney office.

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