Arguments heard as Ruck trial draws near

Attorneys for the woman charged in abandoned baby case fight efforts to split her trial into two phases.

Attorneys for the woman charged in abandoned baby case fight efforts to split her trial into two phases.

April 14, 2006|by MARLO BARNHART

HAGERSTOWN - Defense attorneys argued Thursday against the prosecution's attempt to split into two parts the trial of a Hagerstown mother who allegedly abandoned her newborn son in September 2005.

The prosecution has requested to have the trial of Kelly Erin Ruck split into one phase to determine whether she is guilty and a second phase - if she is found guilty - to determine whether she is criminally responsible.

A trial is scheduled for April 24 and 25.

Ruck, who turned 26 Thursday, has pleaded not criminally responsible to charges of attempted first-degree and attempted second-degree murder, reckless endangerment and contributing to the condition of a child.

She sat hunched at the defense table Thursday as her attorney, Gordon Lynn, argued to Washington County Circuit Judge W. Kennedy Boone III about his client's ability to form intent.


"To tie our hands by not letting Dr. (Joseph) Jurand testify about her mental state would prejudice our case," Lynn said.

He pointed to the jury instructions that say a defendant must have the ability to form intent to commit that crime.

Deputy State's Attorney Joseph Michael said there is no diminished capacity defense in Maryland.

"It's black-letter law. Maryland doesn't recognize it," he said.

Boone asked for a brief meeting with the attorneys in chambers after promising a decision Monday on the state's request to separate the case into two phases.

Ruck is accused of placing her baby boy beneath a parked trailer after giving birth during the early-morning hours of Sept. 17, 2005, charging documents state. The baby was found about 9:30 a.m. by neighbor James Sollenberger, who was drawn to the trailer by bloody rags he saw on the ground near it, according to charging documents.

Sollenberger found the baby under a couple of pieces of wood and took him to safety, police said in charging documents.

In March, Lynn asked Judge Frederick C. Wright III to set a reasonable bond for Ruck so she may seek mental health treatment. Wright denied the request.

Lynn said then that Ruck had undergone a mental health evaluation, but no determination about whether she is criminally responsible for the offense was made. A "not criminally responsible" determination is made by a jury or judge.

Ruck has been ordered not to have contact with the baby, who is in the custody of the Department of Social Services.

Ruck was being held Thursday night at the Washington County Detention Center on $500,000 bond.

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