A security guard at Clifton T. Perkins Hospital was found no guilty of striking a patient after the victim testified in Howard District Court yesterday that he initiated the confrontation.
Carroll Allan Murray, whose address was listed as the Jessup hospital, was acquitted on charges of battery and patient abuse after a trial before Judge James Vaughan.
Mr. Murray was accused of kneeing a patient in the chest as he and another hospital employee escorted the man from the dining room on Aug. 10, 1992.
The patient, William Whitten, testified that he prompted the incident by spitting in Mr. Murray's face.
"It was my fault," Mr. Whitten told the judge.
Judge Vaughan said he believes the prosecution presented enough evidence to prove the incident occurred, but the victim's testimony overrides the basis for a conviction.
"If someone spit on me, my immediate action would be physical," Judge Vaughan said. "That's probably one of the most offensive things a person can do to another person."
But Assistant State's Attorney William Tucker argued that Mr. Murray had a responsibility to treat Mr. Whitten with care, not violence.
"Just because you're spit on, he [Mr. Whitten] does not deserve to be kicked by someone who is assigned to guard and protect him," Mr. Tucker said.
Barry Diamond, a Baltimore attorney for Mr. Murray, did not present any evidence for his client. Mr. Murray, 35, did not testify.
Mr. Whitten is at Perkins for treatment of Tourette's syndrome, a disorder characterized by involuntary tics, cursing or shouting. Mr. Whitten, who testified while wearing handcuffs, shackles and a mask over his mouth, is unable to control himself from spitting.
He testified that Mr. Murray and a nurse were escorting him from the dining room after he struck another patient. He noted that his hands were cuffed behind his back at the time he left the room.
"I spit on one of them's face," said Mr. Whitten, of Gaithersburg. "He got upset. . . . He bent me over and kneed me in the chest."
Avis Tettah, a nurse at Perkins, testified that she watched the altercation on a video monitor. She then reported the incident to the hospital's security supervisor.
"He [Mr. Whitten] was just standing there," Ms. Tettah said. "There was no struggle."
Judge Vaughan said his acquittal of Mr. Murray does not mean that he condones the guard's actions.
"But to find a person guilty of a crime, under the way it's presented here today, bothers me," the judge said.