Opposing lawyers painted radically different pictures yesterday of Jane Frances Bolding, a former intensive care nurse charged with killing three patients and attempting to murder two others by injecting them with massive doses of potassium.
Defense attorneys, trying to persuade a Prince George's Circuit Court judge to throw out Bolding's statements to police, portrayed her as an emotionally scarred woman who told detectives that she injected a patient only after she had endured more than 22 hours of continuous interrogation.
But prosecutors said Bolding is an intelligent and articulate woman, an exceptional nurse and former rescue squad captain who was accustomed to 16-hour days in stressful, life-and-death situations at hospital intensive care units and accident scenes.
At one point yesterday, the sixth day of pretrial hearings, Judge Joseph S. Casula pushed aside some of the contradictions, took others into account, and asked Bolding why she allowed police to hold her for more than 24 hours without charging her with a crime.
"This is the United States, this is not a totalitarian country," Casula said. "Why didn't you just pick yourself up and walk out?"
Bolding, in her seventh hour over two days on the witness stand, answered: "It never entered my mind that I could leave."
Casula also asked Bolding why she signed two documents that waived her rights to remain silent and to speak with a lawyer. "I've watched you on the stand," Casula said. "You seem to be a very articulate and very intelligent person. Did you bother to read them?"
"No, sir," Bolding answered. "They gave me the papers and told me to sign them. And I did."
Bolding, 29, was indicted last December on three counts of first-degree murder and seven counts of assault with intent to murder five intensive care patients at the Prince George's Hospital Center. The charges were filed after prosecutors received a statistical report on the mortality rate in the unit prepared by the federal Centers for Disease Control.
The report said that a disproportionate number of Bolding's patients suffered cardiac arrest while in her care. Bolding was the attending nurse in 57 cases -- or 40 percent -- of the 144 fatal and nonfatal cardiac arrests recorded in the hospital's intensive care unit between January 1984 and March 1985, according to the report.
Bolding is charged in the death of Martha Moore on Oct. 28, 1984, Elinor Dickerson on Sept. 28, 1984, and Isadore Schreiber on Oct. 12, 1984. The other charges involve alleged attempts to murder Mary Morbeto on March 9, 1984; Schreiber on Oct. 2 and Oct 11, 1984; Moore on Oct. 28, 1984; and Gordon Dodson three times, on March 2, March 3 and March 6 in 1985.
She originally was charged in March 1985 with only one count, the first-degree murder of 70-year-old Dickerson. But then-State's Attorney Arthur A. (Bud) Marshall Jr. dismissed the charge two months later, citing a lack of evidence and potential problems using as evidence statements that Bolding had given to police.
Dr. Neil H. Blumberg, a psychiatrist hired by Bolding's attorneys, testified yesterday that Bolding's statement to police that she administered a massive dose of potassium to Dickerson was made involuntarily.
Blumberg said that when Bolding gave Dickerson's name to Detective Mike McQuillan on March 20, 1985, Bolding had had only four hours of sleep in the prior 48 hours, had ingested a large amount of caffeine in coffee and cola during her more than 22 hours of questioning at the police station and had an upset stomach.
And, Blumberg said, Bolding was predisposed to being anxious in the month of March because in March 1978 she had been sexually assaulted by two men, became pregnant and had an abortion.
"The most significant of these is the length of interrogation," Blumberg said. "I've never heard of a 23-hour police interrogation."
Judge Casula, overuling prosecutors' objection to the psychiatrist's remark, agreed with Blumberg. "Neither have I," Casula said.
Assistant State's Attorney Jay Creech, the lead prosecutor in the case, said during cross-examination of Bolding yesterday that Bolding's stories about being confused and intimidated by police were excuses.
"Admitting that you killed Mrs. Dickerson was a terrible mistake," Creech said. "But you had enough control to deny" killing or attempting to kill 22 other patients who suffered heart attacks in the hospital.
The hearing is expected to end today.