GREENE JUDGE EXPLAINS DECISION ON CARROLLS

Date: 1993-08-10
Source: newsbank.com

GREENE JUDGE EXPLAINS DECISION ON CARROLLS

August 10, 1993
Jim Dillon
Dayton Daily News
       
Judge Robert A. Hagler explained his handling of the Carroll family case Monday and called critical comments by Greene County Prosecutor William F. Schenck "outrageous and totally untruthful."

"I am completely at a loss to understand why he would make such ludicrous statements, which he knows are false," Hagler said during a two-hour meeting with reporters and editors of the Dayton Daily News. "He spends an awful lot of time posturing for the press," Hagler added. "He spends a great deal of time polishing his image and not enough time meeting his responsibilities."

Schenck could not be reached for comment Monday night.

Yet Hagler said he investigated the family on his own and acknowledged that during that process, he may have grown too close to the case.

The case began Sept. 21, 1992, when Hannah Carroll, 6, a Down syndrome child, died three days after being burned over 27 percent of her body with bleach.

Three more adopted and handicapped children - Noah, 3, Mollie, 3, and Josiah, 12 - died of unexplained causes since Hannah's death.

In an article published Monday, Schenck said Hagler sought to have involuntary manslaughter charges, filed against Timothy and Kathleen Carroll in Hannah's death, transferred from the general division of Greene County Common Pleas Court to the juvenile division.

Schenck also said Hagler was convinced the Carrolls were "good people" and their other children were in no danger.

In addition, Schenck said that Hagler made it clear "no matter what happened," the Carrolls would get probation.

On Monday, Hagler said Schenck's comments were "asinine and ridiculous."

Hagler said Schenck told him he didn't have enough evidence to prosecute the Carrolls on the involuntary manslaughter charges. The judge said he then suggested that "if you're going to reduce" the charges "you might want to put that in my court."

In addition, Hagler said he would only allow the case to be filed in his court if the Carrolls agreed to plead guilty to misdemeanor charges of contributing to the neglect of a child.

Attorneys for the Carrolls, John H. Rion and Dennis Gump, sought a no-contest plea where the Carrolls would not admit guilt.

Hagler said he insisted on a guilty plea, telling the attorneys that "they need to say for me, the public and themselves that they were wrong, that they did not give this child the care she needed."

As for whether the Carrolls received probation, that was part of the plea bargain between Schenck and the Carrolls' attorneys, and Hagler did not insist they receive it.

Yet during the wide-ranging interview, Hagler disclosed he assumed "extra judicial responsibility" and gathered extensive information about the Carrolls and their children. Hagler said he did so at Schenck and Rion's request.

That information included grand jury testimony, psychological exams, financial reports, coroner's reports and personal interviews with some of the children. It also included a report from therapists that said, according to Hagler, that "this family does a good job of taking care of its children."

In the end, all this privately collected information gave him "good feelings" about the Carrolls and their ability to care for their children, Hagler said.

Yet Hagler said this information was not revealed to the public and was never subject to the court's normal checks and balances. As such, information he used in making decisions about the family went unverified and unchallenged.

"It has entered my mind that perhaps I've gotten too close to this case," Hagler said. "I'm also thinking that I put myself in a box by gathering information that I think is reliable, but it hasn't been subject to cross-examination either."

"I won't do this again," Hagler said. "I won't collect information like this. You may disagree with what I did, but I did what I did based upon what I felt was in the interest of those children. I won't do it again because you and the public don't know what I used to make my decision."

Hagler said he removed himself from the case July 30 after a Dayton Daily News reporter asked him about a report that he was seen hugging the Carroll family outside a coroner's inquest into the deaths of several of their children.

Hagler said he happened to see Timothy and Kathleen Carroll on the second floor of the Greene County Courthouse, shook their hands and patted one of their adopted children on the head after the child hugged his leg.

Yet the mere fact that a reporter was calling and asking about the chance encounter was reason enough to withdraw from the case.

He said the question cast his objectivity into doubt and forced him to think, "My God . . . what in the heck am I doing in this case?"

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