U.S. District Judge Robert Love Taylor today postponed the political corruption trial of Gov. Marvin Mandel and five codefedants for one month, citing medical testimony indicating that the Maryland governor is unable to stand trial at this time because of health problems.
Taylor, the third judge to preside in the controversial case, made his ruling after hearing two days of medical testimony from six doctors. The doctors all agreed that Mandel is seriously ill, and recommended that two more weeks of complex medical tests are needed to determine exactly what is wrong with him.
"The court has tried to do its best," Taylor said in announcing his order. "The decision was not an easy one."
The four-week delay in the trial originally scheduled to begin today, was six weeks less than Mandel's attorneys had requested after the governor was hospitalized last week.
Arguing that a two-week delay would be sufficient, chief prosecutor Barnet D. Skolnik said that Mandel's attorneys, however, had not established that the governor "is really ill," or that he would suffer "grave danger" to his life if the trial [WORD ILLEGIBLE]
"One might question that [WORD ILLEGIBLE] sive role is any more stressful than holding the reins of power of the government of the state with [WORD ILLEGIBLE] people," he added, referring [WORD ILLEGIBLE] del's apparent intention to continue to serve as governor during his illness.
Taylor, the 77-year-old judge from Knoxville, Tenn, said the [WORD ILLEGIBLE] of justice" would best be served by keeping Mandel's trial connected with that of his five codefendants. Two of the other defendants - W. Dale Hess and William A. Rodgers - and nine defense lawyers were present in the softly lighted austere new courtroom as Taylor read his order at 4:3 p.m.
The ruling came after Dr. Stanley Appel, a court - appointed neurologist from Duke University, and Dr. Guy McKhann, a physician hired by federal prosecutors, testified that Mandel is suffering from some sort of disorder in the left hemisphere of the brain.
"The first question I asked myself was 'Is this real?'" said McKhann, head of the Department of Neurogoly at Johns Hopkins University Medical Center. "There's no question in my mind that it is real."
But neither McKhann nor Appel, the second court-appointed physician to examine Mandel at Prince George's General Hospital, would pinpoint exactly what the disorder is. Both suggested that the governor may have to be moved to John Hopkins or another medical center for further testing. Mandel was hospitalized eight days ago.
"My feelings strongly suggest a structural lesion (abnormality) of the left side of the brain," McKhann testified.
Although their testimony stopped short of suggestions by doctors who testified Tuesday that Mandel has suffered either a mild stroke or has a brain tumor that could leave him paralyzed it was considered particularly weighty sine Appel was a court-appointed doctor and McKhann was hired by prosecutors.
Their testimony also raised the prospect that the trial may experience even further delays later.
"I can tell you one thing: I don't think he (Mandel) should go on trial today, or next week," Appel declared at one point when questioned by the judge.
He said he found Mandel highly fatigued and suffering form severe headaches, motor difficulties in his right hand and arm, and memory lapses. The governor performed poorly on several routine tests of motor coordination, such as attempting to hold his right arm straight out without having it drift about. His ailments, Appel added, "are not as much in weaknesses (in his right side), but in coordination."
"There is no question in my mind that there definitely is a disability," the doctor added. But when asked by Taylor if Mandel still could perform his duties as governor. Appel said, "With regard to intellectual responses, I'd say yes."
Four doctors testified in the case Tuesday: Dr. Raymond Adams, a court-appointed Harvard University neurologist; Dr. Perry Hookman, Mandel's family physician: Dr. Marvin Korengold, a clinical assistant neurology professor at George Washington University, and Dr. George B. Udvarhelyl, a neurosurgery professor at John Hopkins.
Adams gave the harshest assessment of the governor's condition suggesting he may be suffering from a progressively worsening brain tumor that could leave him paralyzed. "He does not appear to be in full possession of the faculties he has presented in his professional career . . . " Adams testified.
The trial delay until May 11 was the fourth one in the case since indictments were returned in November, 1975. It was tried before a jury for three months last fall before a mistrial was declared after two jurytampering incidents.
Chief prosecutor Skolnik, in arguing against a lengthy delay, said that the "timing of the illness" had raised serious questions in the minds of the people of Maryland and "the law simply doesn't stand aside when someone is sick."
Meanwhile, yesterday at the Prince George's County Hospital where Mandel is hospitalized, nurses said tht Jeanne Mandel, the governor's wife, was sleeping on the sofa next to her husband's bed. Security guards have taken over the room adjacent to the governor's, they said.