Judge OKs warrant use in child starvation case

A Baltimore County judge hearing the case of the Rodgers Forge couple charged with murder in the starvation death of their 2-year-old son ruled yesterday that a police search warrant for the family's home was valid.

Defense attorneys for John J. Griffin and Susan J. Griffin had argued that the warrant was so vague as to be unconstitutional, particularly in giving police authority to search for "any and all bloody clothing, any and all bloody items, any and all items that may lead to motive and any and all items that could reveal evidence of negligence."Baltimore County Circuit Judge Timothy J. Martin ruled that while the warrant application was sparse and "grammatically not so hot," it did not meet the legal threshold for preventing prosecutors from presenting the evidence seized during the search during a trial.

"I cannot operate in a vacuum," the judge said. "I must use my common sense."

Police found blood evidence traced to the boy on clothes, walls and the ceiling of the couple's bedroom. The ruling means there will be no blanket prohibition on prosecutors telling jurors about that evidence or from presenting photos and e-mails that investigators found on the family's computer.

The judge did say, however, that he would consider requests from defense lawyers to keep out particular pieces of evidence if they are too inflammatory or if they violate the marital privilege that prevents some communications between spouses from being introduced in court.

John Griffin, 39, and Susan Griffin, 38, are charged with first-degree murder and child abuse in the death of Andrew Patrick Griffin, who weighed about 13 pounds -- roughly the weight of a typical 3-month-old -- when he died Dec. 26 at St. Joseph Medical Center. An autopsy revealed that the cause of death was starvation.

The case is scheduled to go to trial next month.

The judge also modified the conditions of release for John Griffin, a computer systems engineer who is free on bail pending trial. He granted a request from a therapist treating the Griffins' children that the father be allowed supervised visits with four of the couple's five remaining children.

They have been placed in foster care, with the oldest two assigned to live with John Griffin's mother.

The visits, however, must be supervised by someone who is not a relative of either defendant, and the monitor must ensure that John Griffin does not talk with his children about their mother, the criminal case or what happened to their brother Andrew, the judge ruled.

He also noted that no one must mention at trial that John Griffin has had access to the children while awaiting trial but Susan Griffin has not. Susan Griffin remains at the county jail on $1 million bond.

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