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Mistrial declared in suit against hospital officer


A Carroll judge presiding over a $5 million lawsuit against two Springfield Hospital Center police officers declared a mistrial yesterday after he learned that a defense attorney had failed to disclose a crucial piece of evidence uncovered more than a month before trial.

Circuit Judge Raymond E. Beck Sr. declared the mistrial at the request of Baltimore attorney Mark A. Epstein, who represents the plaintiff, Ida Hawkins of Woodlawn.

Mr. Epstein asked for the mistrial after Assistant Attorney General Timothy J. Paulus told Judge Beck during the lunch recess yesterday -- the trial's fourth day -- that he had just learned that a report, which he believed could help vindicate his client, may not have been provided to Mrs. Hawkins.

Mr. Paulus said the report had the potential to refute Mrs. Hawkins' claims that his client -- Officer Ricky Hinkle -- uttered a racist remark and mistreated the 54-year-old nursing assistant when she was arrested after two traffic stops on the night of June 27, 1990.

Under Maryland trial rules, a judge may not allow a jury to consider evidence that was unavailable to the other party in the lawsuit.

The new evidence wasn't needed to help the officer, according to two jurors who asked that their names not be used. The jurors said they were prepared to make a finding against Mrs. Hawkins.

In her suit, Mrs. Hawkins said Officer Hinkle called her a "savage" while she was sitting handcuffed in a patrol car.

Officer Hinkle denies uttering the remark, and the report his attorney disclosed yesterday shows that another officer -- not Officer Hinkle -- was disciplined for making a disparaging comment.

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