Killer dies in cell at Supermax

The Baltimore Sun

A convicted killer with a history of mental illness was found dead in his cell Monday in what authorities say was an apparent suicide, an outcome the inmate's lawyers called tragically predictable.

Kevin G. Johns Jr., 26, was found at the Supermax prison in Baltimore just after midnight during a routine security count, according to the Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services. He was being held at the prison after being found not criminally responsible for the death of another inmate during an attack aboard a prison transportation bus in 2005.

Johns was serving a 35-year sentence and life without parole for two murders when he strangled Phillip E. Parker Jr. in February 2005 during a pre-dawn drive from Hagerstown to Baltimore.

After a judge ruled Johns not criminally responsible for the attack, a lawyer for the defendant argued in court last summer Johns should be relocated to the state's maximum-security psychiatric facility to be treated for his illnesses. But the prison's warden and the security chief of Clifton T. Perkins Hospital Center said the medical facility would not be able to keep its staff or patients safe with Johns there, even if he were confined to the ward for the most dangerous patients.

The chief executive officer at the medical facility had classified Johns as a special case, pointing to extraordinary security measures that prison staff took to prevent any physical contact between Johns and anyone at Supermax.

In June, Harford County Circuit Judge Emory A. Plitt Jr. ordered Johns to be treated through "institutional in-patient care and treatment." It was the first time a defendant committed to the state Department of Health and Mental Hygiene was treated at a prison facility rather than at a psychiatric institution.

On Monday, lawyers for Johns said his death could have been avoided if he had been committed to Perkins. Harry J. Trainor Jr. said he felt sad and frustrated over his client's death: "It's our view that if Kevin had received the care and treatment that were required, this may not have happened."

Rick Binetti, a correctional services department spokesman, said privacy rules prevent him from discussing the type of treatment Johns was getting at Supermax. But Carroll McCabe, a lawyer for Johns, said there was no way her client received proper attention in prison. McCabe said Johns needed to be in a facility like Clifton T. Perkins, which has "a mental health staff around the clock and a psychiatrist on call 24 hours."

McCabe had filed a motion in Harford County Circuit Court asking the court to reconsider its order. McCabe said Johns had attempted suicide last fall. "I've been concerned about this all along," she said.

Binetti said the department's Internal Investigative Unit and the Maryland State police are investigating the suicide.

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