Md. carjacking suspect was delusional, attorney says

April 5, 2012

A Baltimore man accused of carjacking a woman who escaped by jumping onto the Capital Beltway with her toddler was so delusional that he thought he needed to get away from assailants, his attorney said in court Thursday.

“He was not his normal self. He was in the throes of his psychotic attack,” said the attorney, Isaac Klein, as he asked Montgomery County Circuit Judge Marielsa A. Bernard to set bail that would allow his client to be released from jail.

Bernard denied the request and ordered the suspect, Terron A. White, 23, held without bail.

The July 13 incident garnered wide attention because of the hair-raising story: A carjacking at a gas station, a high-speed police chase, a victim screaming for help and then rolling onto the pavement with her 19-month-old son cradled in her arms.

In the meantime, the prosecution has been on hold while White underwent psychiatric evaluations. Doctors deemed that he is now mentally competent to stand trial, meaning that he understands his situation well enough to communicate with his attorney and participate in his defense.

Klein indicated that if the case goes to trial, he will present what is commonly known as an insanity defense. In Maryland, defendants can be found “not criminally responsible” and placed in a secure hospital rather than a prison if mental illness prevented them from understanding that their actions were wrong.

Thursday’s hearing shed some light on White’s mental evaluations. At one point, doctors indicated that he suffers from schizophrenia, Bernard said. Doctors also wrote about a “substance-induced psychotic disorder,” suggesting that White was under the influence of marijuana and an opiate-based drug, possibly pain medication, at the time of the incident.

The 45-minute ordeal began shortly after 10 p.m. at a Citgo station in Baltimore, according to authorities. White allegedly forced his way into a Lexus and drove off with the woman and child inside.

Maryland State Police pursued the Lexus into Montgomery, a chase that reached speeds of more than 100 mph, authorities said. Near the River Road exit, the car slowed, and the woman bailed out with the child. They were not seriously hurt.

White was quickly apprehended. He is scheduled to go to trial Sept. 4 on kidnapping and car theft charges.

Advancing an insanity defense might prove difficult. Bernard said White may have shown that he was aware of doing wrong: He allegedly threatened to harm the woman if she called for help and tossed her cellphone from the car.

“There are so many actions that indicate that he was completely aware of what was going on,” she said.

Karen McNeeley, a prosecutor, said that if White thought he was being chased by an attacker, the victim offered to cooperate with his attempt to flee. “She begged him to let her get her child out of the car and just take her car,” McNeeley said. “He had that choice.”

Post staff writer Dan Morse covers courts and crime in Montgomery County, Md.
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