Judge orders psychiatric exam for Fisher Woman set to stand trial April 8 in death of sister

March 20, 1998|By Joan Jacobson | Joan Jacobson,SUN STAFF

Baltimore County Circuit Judge Dana M. Levitz yesterday ordered a psychiatrist to examine Rose Mary Fisher, after her lawyer said Fisher suffers from a mental disorder and is not competent to stand trial in the death of her younger sister.

Rita Denise Fisher, 9, starved to death in June. Rose Mary Fisher is set for trial April 8 with her mother, Mary E. Utley, 50, and Rose Mary Fisher's boyfriend, Frank E. Scarpola Jr., 22, on charges of murder and child abuse.

This month, Mary Utley dropped her insanity claim that she was not criminally responsible for her actions at the time her youngest daughter died.

Yesterday's order came after Rose Mary Fisher's lawyer, Larry Polen, told the judge that a doctor who has examined the 21-year-old woman "believes she is not competent to stand trial and assist in her defense."

Assistant State's Attorney James O'C. Gentry Jr. expressed BTC skepticism about Rose Mary Fisher's mental condition, noting that she sat behind her lawyer in court yesterday, reading a legal motion in the case. "She appears lucid here today," he said.

Polen's motion was one of several last-minute requests by defense attorneys in recent days, mostly for access to health, school, social work and psychiatric records for all of Mary Utley's children.

Yesterday, defense attorneys appeared most interested in the records of Georgia Fisher, Rita's 16-year-old sister, who is expected to be the prosecution's key witness about alleged abuse in the northwest Baltimore County home.

Georgia Fisher was put in the custody of the Department of Social Services after her sister's death.

Yesterday, Levitz ordered that Georgia Fisher be given a court-appointed attorney to represent her concerning defense attorneys' request to review her psychiatric records.

Levitz said that because those records are private, only Georgia Fisher could allow the judge to review them to determine if any of them could be used at the trial.

Defense attorneys apparently plan to attack Georgia Fisher's credibility during the trial. Polen yesterday said she has "a history of giving conflicting statements."

Although the motions raised questions about whether the trial can go on as planned, Levitz said he is determined to begin an expected five-day jury selection with 300 potential jurors April 8.

Levitz also denied Polen's request to contact Georgia Fisher for an interview, after Gentry said the girl "unequivocally does not wish to speak to any defense attorney or any of their doctors."

Arthur M. Frank, attorney for Scarpola, asked the judge for access to records from several institutions, including the Department of Social Services. He also asked the judge to order County Executive C. A. Dutch Ruppersberger to produce documents concerning his administration's investigation of DSS after Rita Fisher's death.

Levitz said he cannot rule on the request until the county administration and other institutions file legal motions either agreeing or refusing to produce the documents.

Gentry, who said prosecutors have given defense lawyers five volumes of documents about the family, accused the lawyers of unnecessarily asking for "reams" of documents at the last minute.

Pub Date: 3/20/98

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