'2 good attorneys' at odds over $1,100 Judge says prosecutor needn't pay

July 09, 1993|By Dennis O'Brien | Dennis O'Brien,Staff Writer

Anne Arundel County's public defender asked a Circuit Court judge yesterday to make the prosecution pay a $1,100 bill for the psychiatric examination of a client. But the judge refused, saying the dispute was a matter of pretrial sparring between "two good attorneys."

"I don't see anything other than two attorneys playing hardball and one of them getting hit in the head," said Judge Bruce C. Williams.

Alan R. Friedman, the public defender, accused prosecutor Robert J. Bittman of misrepresenting his case against Darrell T. Cornish, a 27-year-old man who held 11 people hostage at a Glen Burnie bank in September, and of forcing the defender's office to ring up an unnecessary legal expense.

Cornish, 27, was found not criminally responsible May 6 as part of a plea agreement reached by the two attorneys. Cornish pleaded guilty to kidnapping, robbery with a deadly weapon, false imprisonment and sexually assaulting three of the women in the bank.

Mr. Friedman assailed Mr. Bittman for saying in an April 23 letter that he had four therapists ready to testify that the former mental patient was sane, when he had never actually spoken with the therapists.

Mr. Friedman said that, because of that claim, he retained Baltimore psychiatrist Dr. Jeffrey Janofsky to examine Cornish and review his health and criminal files to bolster his client's position that he was not criminally responsible.

Mr. Friedman said that only after he had retained Dr. Janofsky, who charged $1,100, did he learn that Mr. Bittman had never discussed the case with the doctors whom the prosecutor had listed in his letter.

One of the four doctors, Mr. Friedman said, had undergone brain surgery and was unable to speak at the time Mr. Bittman said he would have him testify.

"He simply made up these opinions without telling anyone that these opinions arose not from these professionals' minds, but from his own mind," Mr. Friedman argued during the hearing. "He had no way of knowing what any of their opinions would be."

Mr. Bittman acknowledged that he didn't speak with the doctors, but he said that was because of a pretrial court order won by Mr. Friedman that prevented the prosecutor from discussing the case with the doctors.

"If you conclude that that I did was bad faith, I submit that what Mr. Friedman did was bad faith as well," Mr. Bittman said.

He said his list of the four doctors put Mr. Friedman on notice that he was lining them up and that he anticipated their testimony after reviewing lengthy reports in which they documented Cornish's progress before the hostage incident.

Cornish had been ordered to Clifton T. Perkins Hospital after an almost identical 1984 incident at an Annapolis bank, in which he held a teller at knifepoint and tried to rob the bank. He had been a patient at Crownsville Hospital Center and at Omni House, a Glen Burnie group home where he was living at the time of the 1992 incident.

Robert Condlin, who teaches a course on legal ethics at the University of Maryland Law School, said pretrial discovery in criminal cases is a "fuzzy area" in terms of whether an attorney is being unethical in misleading an opponent.

"Both sides want to get as much as they possibly can without exposing themselves," he said.

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