To prosecutors, former Carroll County schools Superintendent William H. Hyde's writing of an apology to an elementary school-age girl who has accused him of inappropriately touching her was an "uncon- strained choice" made on a day when he had plenty of chances to back down, call a lawyer or go home before being placed under arrest.
But to defense attorneys, the cumulative effect of the nine hours Hyde spent with investigators before he was arrested was "wearing away his spirit" as well as any chance that his statements to police were made voluntarily.
After hearing lawyers' arguments yesterday, Carroll Circuit Judge Luke K. Burns Jr. said he will rule next week on defense motions to exclude from trial Hyde's statements, two apology letters to the alleged victim and other evidence.
The judge also said he will wait to rule on a defense request for medical records and therapy reports on the young girl, who has been seeing a psychologist.
Defense attorney Kathi Hill likened the situation to "trying to defend someone with our hands tied behind our backs." She said she would subpoena the records but does not know the names of the girl's doctors.
Tracy A. Gilmore, Carroll's deputy state's attorney, argued that information relating to diagnosis or treatment from a psychologist or psychiatrist can be withheld under privacy laws. Even sharing the name and address of a doctor would confirm the existence of such medical records and cannot be done, she told the judge.
Hyde, 61, who has been charged with second-degree rape, sexual child abuse and other related offenses, was not in court yesterday. The judge excused Hyde from the hearing so he would not miss a scheduled flight to Idaho, where he has been renting a cabin in the small town of Sagle, about 50 miles from the Canadian border.
Hyde, a 39-year educator and school administrator, left his job as Carroll's schools chief in August 2000 to work for a small school system in a Montana logging community. He left that post last summer to work as an educational consultant and has been free on bail and living in Idaho since his arrest in Westminster on Aug. 8.
During more than two hours of testimony Tuesday, Hyde characterized the hours before his arrest as a verbal, emotional and mental "beating." He said he would not have admitted to anything, except that the mother of the alleged victim and investigators insisted that the young girl needed an apology "to heal."
"I put in [the] second letter, 'I'm sorry I touched [you],'" Hyde testified Tuesday, but he said he made clear to investigators that he did not remember ever having inappropriate contact with the girl. He said he told them, "I'm giving this to you because you say this is what [the alleged victim] needs to hear."
Hyde's attorneys argued yesterday that investigators' actions were improper.
"The investigative team's suggestion that [the alleged victim] needed him to verify ... her statements was an improper inducement," defense attorney Edward M. Ulsch told the judge.
He characterized investigators' tactics as "wearing away his spirit and wearing away any possible chance of voluntariness."
But Gilmore said that because Hyde had learned of the allegations the day before he took a polygraph test and spoke with police, he was familiar with the situation.
"This was not like an individual being confronted or questioned by a police officer for the first time," Gilmore said. "This man knew what the allegations were."
Hyde's awareness should have increased, she said, when investigators asked him in the lobby of the Westminster police barracks to provide a DNA sample through a swab of saliva.
Hyde is scheduled to stand trial June 23.