Attorneys for Kevin Cooper, the man charged with drunken driving in the Christmas Eve deaths of five members of a Montgomery County family, asked a Carroll County Circuit Court judge today to disregard tests that could determine whether Cooper was drunk at the time of the accident.
Dr. Hugh F. Hill, an attorney and a physician at the Carroll County Hospital where Cooper was treated the night of the crash, testified that Cooper arrived at the hospital with a dislocated right hip, two broken ribs and a fractured spine.
But Hill said Cooper's behavior, which included cursing and flailing his arms at doctors and nurses, indicated he might be suffering from a head injury, prompting Hill to order several tests, including one to determine Cooper's blood alcohol level.
"I wanted to see whether his symptoms were being caused by a head injury or by alcohol, or a combination of the two," Hill testified before Judge Donald J. Gilmore.
But Baltimore attorneys George Pappas and Christopher D. Ohly, who were attempting to keep the results of Cooper's blood test from becoming part of the case, argued that the test was not necessary to determine if a head injury existed.
Pappas contended that Hill, in taking the blood alcohol test, may have been trying to build a court case against his client. Pappas said that if the results were going to be used as evidence, Cooper should have been given the right, under Maryland law, to refuse the test.
Hill testified he spends 40 percent of his time practicing medicine and 60 percent as a medical-legal counsel in a Rockville law firm.
"When you ordered the blood alcohol test you knew the legal consequences, didn't you?" Pappas asked. "You knew that a blood alcohol test taken for medical purposes could be used in a criminal trial."
Hill said he was aware that the test could be used in criminal proceedings.
Cooper, 26, of Glen Burnie, was arrested on Dec. 24 after a head-on collision on Rte. 27 near Mount Airy of his 1969 Plymouth station wagon and a 1981 Volkswagen Rabbit driven by Margaret Proctor of Clarksburg.
According to Maryland State Police, Cooper's car crossed the center line and the two cars collided at 3:55 p.m. Five members of Proctor's family, including two sons and three small grandchildren, were killed in the accident. Proctor and two daughters were injured.
Cooper was charged with driving while intoxicated, failing to keep to the right of the highway, reckless driving, five counts of homicide by automobile while intoxicated and five counts of automobile manslaughter. He has pleaded innocent to the charges.
State police Cpl. Dennis Murphy said he read Cooper his rights after he detected partially slurred speech and smelled alcohol on Cooper's breath while questioning him at the hospital.
Murphy testified that Cooper, a carpenter, told him he had worked on a construction job until 11 a.m. on the day of the accident. Cooper then went to a restaurant near the construction site in Frederick to attend a Christmas party with other members of the construction crew, Murphy said he was told.
"He said he left the party about 3:30 and that he had some food and one Miller's beer," Murphy testified. "He said that when he left he was tired and that as he was driving, he caught himself dozing at the wheel," Murphy testified.
Murphy said that Cooper, who is scheduled to testify Tuesday, told him he did not know how the accident occurred.
The deaths of the five members of the Proctor family have been used by citizens groups, churches and legislators in the past months to generate new interest in the issue of drunken driving.