Judge rules McLean trial must begin

June 10, 1994|By Jay Apperson | Jay Apperson,Sun Staff Writer

After hours of fist-banging legal battling with Jacqueline F. McLean's lawyer, a judge last night ordered that the indicted Baltimore comptroller's trial on theft and misconduct charges begin today.

While Baltimore Circuit Judge Elsbeth L. Bothe turned down Mrs. McLean's second attempt to put off the trial on psychiatric grounds, defense lawyer M. Cristina Gutierrez vowed to raise a number of motions that could delay its start.

The judge said she was not convinced that Mrs. McLean, who has attempted suicide and has been hospitalized for depression for months, should receive a postponement to allow her to receive additional psychiatric treatment.

"On the contrary, there is some evidence . . . that it might well be an asset to the mental health of the defendant to get this matter resolved at this time rather than remaining in limbo at the hospital," Judge Bothe said.

Among the courses of action Ms. Gutierrez intends to pursue is a bid to have Judge Bothe disqualified from the case. The judge said she has rejected that demand and that the issue is settled, but the lawyer said she will continue to press it in another forum.

Judge Bothe made her ruling at 10:20 last night, after a seven-hour hearing that featured countless testy exchanges between her and Ms. Gutierrez. The judge ruled after a court psychiatrist who interviewed Mrs. McLean yesterday testified that the rigors of a trial would not affect her treatment for depression.

"The stress of going to trial is not going to make a difference in the long-term treatment of Miss McLean and, indeed, she is capable of going through the trial situation," Thomas Oglesby, a court psychiatrist, testified. "Is this stress going to be any different from the stress of sitting in the hospital waiting for trial? . . . I don't see it as being any different."

Dr. Oglesby said he found no evidence that Mrs. McLean is malingering.

Lawyers for Mrs. McLean had asked that the trial be postponed for three months because her severe depression is life threatening and she may need to pursue a new course of treatment -- revealed yesterday to be electroshock therapy. Although another judge rejected the request Monday, Judge Bothe said she would revisit the issue if Mrs. McLean agreed to be interviewed by a court psychiatrist.

Mrs. McLean, who previously had declined to be interviewed by the court psychiatrist, met for an hour yesterday morning with Dr. Oglesby.

Mrs. McLean, 50, has been charged with stealing more than $25,000 in public funds and with trying to arrange for a $1 million city lease of the former headquarters of her travel agency.

In January, Mrs. McLean was admitted to Sheppard and Enoch Pratt Hospital for psychiatric treatment as a grand jury considered the case against her.

tTC Two months after her indictment, on the night of April 14, she attempted suicide with a near-fatal overdose of anti-depressant drugs and alcohol.

Since emerging from six months of seclusion to appear in court the past two days, Mrs. McLean has appeared drawn and unsteady, meek and frightened.

Her trial, which had been scheduled to begin Wednesday, did not get under way because her principal attorney, Ms. Gutierrez, was in court in Montgomery County.

Mrs. McLean was represented at Wednesday's hearing by Ms. Gutierrez' law partner, William H. Murphy Jr. That hearing was marked by sharp exchanges between Judge Bothe and Mr. Murphy, who asked the judge to disqualify herself from the case.

That issue remains unresolved.

During Wednesday's hearing, Mrs. McLean was rushed out of the courtroom after suffering what her lawyers termed a "panic attack."

Mrs. McLean again began shaking yesterday in court. After consulting with her lawyers, she chose to leave the courtroom while Dr. Oglesby testified.

The court psychiatrist took the witness stand over the objection of Ms. Gutierrez, who arrived in court at 3 p.m. after the Montgomery County trial.

She complained that she had not had time to prepare to question Dr. Oglesby, but Judge Bothe said the matter was going to be resolved before the court recessed for the night.

As Mr. Murphy had done the day before, Ms. Gutierrez joined in several testy exchanges with Judge Bothe. Both women gave a series of sarcastic comments and, at various times, angrily banged on the furniture.

After brief questioning from Judge Bothe and state prosecutor Stephen Montanarelli -- who for the second straight day sat at the trial table for hours with little cause to speak -- Dr. Oglesby was cross-examined by Ms. Gutierrez.

Judge Bothe ordered a recess until 8:30 p.m.

After nearly two more hours of testimony and argument, Judge Bothe denied the motion for a postponement and ordered the parties to return to court at 9:30 this morning.

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