Judge seeks change after suicide at jail

March 23, 1995|By Jay Apperson | Jay Apperson,Sun Staff Writer

Prompted by the communication breakdown that preceded a veteran police officer's suicide in his jail cell in Baltimore last week, the top judge of the city's District Court has called for a change in court procedures.

Judge Mary Ellen T. Rinehardt said Monday that she expects computer programmers will be able to modify court documents to highlight messages from the court to the Baltimore City Detention Center.

"I think it will be done," said the judge, who met with a computer expert last week on her proposal.

Her recommendation came after Joseph E. Reynolds, who was charged with murdering his wife and a friend, hanged himself in his cell March 14. Officer Reynolds, 44, had worked for the Baltimore Police Department for more than 20 years before joining the force of a Cecil County town two years ago.

At a March 13 bail review in District Court, Judge Joseph A. Ciotola ordered a psychiatric evaluation after being told that the officer had threatened to kill himself.

Judge Ciotola said, apparently to a clerk, "Alert the warden or the director . . . of his tendencies," but court records carried no mention of the judge's directive. Moreover, questions arose about where such a notation should be made.

In hopes of resolving that issue, Judge Rinehardt called for changing the document that gives the jail authority to hold a defendant. She said it should be expanded to include a section devoted to notations from the court to the detention center.

The judge was careful not to criticize programmers who devised the automated document system several years ago.

"When tragedies happen you consider things that you hadn't," the judge said.

Officer Reynolds was charged with shooting John Francis Myers, 39, in the head as he walked out of a restroom at the Ham-o-lea Pleasure Club, a social club in the 4300 block of Harford Road, about 3:20 a.m. March 12. He also was charged with shooting his wife, Melanie Martha Reynolds, 44, in the neck moments later.

Officer Reynolds, who lived in Port Deposit, worked for the North East Police Department.

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