A three-judge panel has ruled that Spring Grove State Hospital and two of its doctors are not liable in the 1976 death of 11-year-old Kenneth Dawson of Falls Church, Va., who was murdered by Arthur Goode III, a sex deviate, about a week after Goode walked away from the hospital.
The Court of Special Appeals panel supported a circuit court's rejection of a $2 million suit by Dawson's family. The suit blamed the mental hospital and its doctors for allowing Goode, who admitted himself to the hospital as part of a plea bargain on a sex charge in Prince George's County, to walk away, and for failing to notify authorities of his disappearance. Dawson was killed about a week after Goode left Spring Grove.
Goode, who was convicted of the Dawson murder and the slaying of another boy a few weeks earlier in Florida, is awaiting execution in the Florida murder.
Walter J. Murphy Jr., the Rockville attorney who filed the appeal, said he would ask the Court of Appeals, the state's highest, for a review.
Goode voluntarily committed himself to Spring Grove in 1973 and again in 1975 after being arrested for sex crimes against young boys. Later in 1975 he was sent to the hospital for evaluation of competency to stand trial on pending charges of assault and unnatural sex acts.
He was found competent, but after plea bargaining received a suspended sentence conditional on voluntary commitment to the hospital. That sentence followed the recommendation of one of the doctors named in the suit, Donald Bartley, director of the forensic unit.
Voluntary commitment does not include restraint. After 20 weeks, Goode "eloped," in the hospital's term, to Florida, where he murdered young Jason Verdow. He then returned to Spring Grove with the intention of recommitting himself, but grew nervous as he waited in an anteroom and left. By then Florida law enforcement officials had notified Spring Grove of suspicions that Goode was involved in the Verdow murder.
Within about a week he had murdered Dawson.
Verdow's parents also filed a suit against the hospital that is pending in U.S. District Court in Baltimore.