Defense lawyers are pursuing the equivalent of an insanity plea for the Crofton youth who is the first person accused of violating Maryland's ban on assisted suicide.
In a second key pretrial move yesterday, the attorneys asked a judge to throw out the 16-year-old's statements to police about the death of his girlfriend, Jennifer Garvey of Crofton, on Oct. 18.
Defense lawyers said their experts and state mental health officials will evaluate their client, who police say entered into a suicide pact with Garvey.
Police say he brought his stepfather's gun to a cluster of Crofton storm sewers known by local youths as "the underworld," where the shooting took place. After Garvey shot herself, he ran to a friend's home, police say.
Officials have described the youth as troubled, with a history of drug use and psychiatric hospitalizations.
The defense must show that the youth did not understand the criminal nature of what he did, or was too impaired to conform to the law, for him to be found not criminally responsible. In most cases, the person is turned over to state mental health officials after such a finding, said Assistant Public Defender William Davis.
Assistant State's Attorney Michael Bergeson said such a determination does not apply to juveniles, but Anne Arundel County Circuit Judge Pamela L. North, who is hearing the case, has made that finding for other youths.
Juvenile authorities can hold a person until age 21. A mental health commitment can last longer.
The juvenile is accused of assisting a suicide, possession of a handgun and recklessly endangering another person. He and Garvey were both 15 and 11th-graders at Arundel High School when she died.
Yesterday's hearing, held to air the defense bid to have the boy's statements to police thrown out, portrayed him as distraught and panicked when he tried to get medical help for Garvey.
Testimony from a paramedic who returned with him to the scene of the shooting indicated that what he told her was nearly identical to what he told police.
The paramedic testified that she told him to tell the police everything he had told her. Police took the teen-ager to their headquarters for questioning.
Davis argued that his client was illegally held after the shooting and that though the teen-ager was too distraught to give a legal statement, police did not contact his mother or arrange for an emergency evaluation until after 2 a.m. Oct. 19 -- after he spoke with them.
That was disputed by Detective Thomas Torrence, who said he was told shortly after arriving at the scene that the boy's mother had been contacted.
The teen-ager remained at to Sheppard and Enoch Pratt Hospital for nearly two weeks. Police brought juvenile charges against him on Feb. 29.
"I am suggesting to the court that he was psychologically pressured," Davis said. "Clearly, the kid was in custody, and he wasn't free to leave."
A North Arundel Hospital expert who evaluated the youth early the next morning and the Sheppard Pratt psychiatrist described him as depressed and showing impaired judgment.
Bergeson argued that none of that should make his statements to police inadmissible. He said that though the youth was upset, he was able to get to a friend's house and direct paramedics to the storm sewers.
"Depression does not make it involuntary," he said.