The 16-year-old Crofton boy charged with assisted suicide in the death of his girlfriend pleaded "not involved" yesterday in Anne Arundel County Circuit Court, and his attorney asked the judge to dismiss the case, arguing that the law was never meant to apply in the case of a failed suicide pact between lovers.
The request came during a two-hour hearing on charges that the boy helped Jennifer Garvey, 15, shoot herself in the head Oct. 18.
He is the first person charged with violating Maryland's 1999 assisted suicide law and is also charged with possession of a handgun and reckless endangerment, all as a juvenile.
At yesterday's hearing, the defendant gave up his rights to a full trial and witness testimony, and agreed to a prosecution statement of facts in the case.
Judge Pamela L. North did not indicate when she will issue a ruling, but another hearing in the case is scheduled for Sept. 15.
If the judge does not dismiss the charges, she will rule on whether the boy was "involved" - the juvenile equivalent of guilty - and whether he was criminally responsible for his actions. A sentencing hearing would follow.
Anne Arundel State's Attorney Frank R. Weathersbee said the state will not seek incarceration for the boy if he is found involved. Psychiatrists for the state and defense have found that the boy was too depressed to keep his behavior within the law, and Weathersbee said he is confident that the judge's decision will be in the best interest of the boy.
The Sun does not identify juveniles charged in criminal cases.
At the hearing, William Davis, one of two public defenders representing the boy, argued that the assisted-suicide law is supposed to apply in cases dealing with health care professionals or family members who help terminally ill patients commit suicide with medications. That was clearly not the situation in this case, he said.
"What killed the individual was the person pulling the trigger, and the person pulling the trigger was Jennifer Garvey," he said.
Assistant State's Attorney Michael O. Bergeson argued that the boy was responsible under the assisted-suicide law because he provided the Crofton girl with the gun to kill herself.
"Helping a healthy 15-year-old ... commit suicide is far more serious" than helping a terminally ill patient kill himself, he said.
Bergeson read aloud the boy's statements to police, which the prosecutor said support the state's claims that the boy supplied his girlfriend with the gun. The boy told police he broke into a gun cabinet in his home and took the .38-caliber revolver and a box of ammunition.
The boy said he and Jennifer then went to a dark storm drain in Crofton, known to local teens as the Underworld, where they lighted candles and talked about family members and friends who were causing them to be depressed. Then they wrote suicide notes together.
"Both our parents keep breaking us up. ... If we couldn't live together, we didn't want to live apart," the boy told police.
He said he gave his girlfriend the gun, they hugged and kissed, and he went around the corner. He said he changed his mind and was about to run back to tell her to stop when he heard the gunshot.
"I went back, shook her and hollered, `No!'" he told police. "I never saw where the gun was. If I could've found the gun, I would've killed myself, too."
Davis argued that the boy was not responsible for his girlfriend's having the gun. He said the boy did not readily have access to the gun because it was locked in a cabinet that he was not supposed to get into. He also said that Jennifer had considered getting a gun the week before.
"There's no evidence that [the defendant] alone takes the gun or opens the cabinet. ... There's no evidence that [the defendant] put that gun in a backpack and carried it out of the house," he said.
Davis said Jennifer had previously attempted suicide and that during their relationship, the couple had exchanged notes that showed Jennifer's suicidal thoughts. She wrote, for example, that she was so depressed that she wondered why she didn't "get a gun or a stronger rope."
"Jennifer Garvey is the one who brought the idea of a gun into the suicide pact," Davis said. He said the results of gun residue tests showed that she alone pulled the trigger.
Neither family would comment on the case.
After the hearing, Weathersbee said he is frustrated that his office has been portrayed as "the entity that persecutes" in dealing with the case. He said the case clearly falls under the assisted-suicide law.
"To me, it's pretty clear, if you know a person is going to commit suicide and you provide them the means to do it, you're guilty," he said.