A Crofton teen-ager found to have suffered such severe depression that he could not be blamed for helping his girlfriend kill herself will remain free but must attend school or work and continue treatment for mental illness, a judge ruled yesterday.
In the state's first case applying Maryland's law banning assisted suicide, Anne Arundel Circuit Judge Pamela L. North told a hushed courtroom that the 16-year-old does not need in-patient treatment for his mental problems. She ended his home detention.
He will stay under court supervision, however - possibly until he turns 21, the age limit for court control in juvenile cases.
A psychiatric evaluation this week confirmed what experts said in recent months: that the youth is excelling in a technical school, is a cooperative patient and has not violated conditions of his release.
Prosecutors offered no objection to North's decision.
But relatives of Jennifer Garvey, the 15-year-old who killed herself last Oct. 18 in a suicide pact with the boy, said they still see him as responsible for her death and wished he were not living so close by - within walking distance of her father's home.
They predicted the boy will get in further trouble. His attorneys, on the other hand, said he appears to be on the "path to be a productive member of society."
"I really think it deserves punishment," said Steven C. Garvey, Jennifer's father. "The bottom line is there were two people there. ... You know when you hand somebody a gun what's going to happen."
A week ago, North found the boy violated the state's ban on assisted suicide, illegally carried a handgun and endangered another person.
But she agreed with two psychiatrists, who said he was suffering from such severe depression that his thinking was affected and he could not be held responsible for his actions.
"How can you say he is not responsible? I can tell you with Jennifer having a similar disorder, she knew the difference between right and wrong," said Cheryl L. Sylce, her mother.
Both Jennifer and her boyfriend had histories of mental illness.
Her parents, as well as William Davis, one of the boy's attorneys, said the two young people fed each other's mental problems.
Jennifer had been in treatment for depression and related problems and had previously tried to kill herself. The boy, who had a history of psychiatric hospitalizations, also had attempted suicide.
Prosecutors claimed yesterday that the boy's mother had done nothing to get him help, prompting her to whisper in court, "That's a lie."
She deferred all comment to the boy's lawyer.
Davis, an assistant public defender, later said the mother had made several efforts to help the boy. Before Jennifer's suicide, she had arranged a psychiatric appointment for him, but the date for it fell after her death, Davis said.
The teen-agers - then students at Arundel High School - left suicide notes that said they were killing themselves because their parents were trying to end their five-month relationship.
Love letters the young couple exchanged over several months depicted an unhealthy relationship between two troubled teens, each venting family problems, saying they lived only for each other and wishing they could be together.
Jennifer's parents said she was trying to end the relationship.