Judges reopens report in Todd Hall case

Published 12:00 am Saturday, May 6, 2000

Judge Richard Walton Friday opened formerly sealed psychiatric hospital records of Todd Hall, the county man accused in a fatal fireworks store fire four years ago.

Saturday, May 06, 2000

Judge Richard Walton Friday opened formerly sealed psychiatric hospital records of Todd Hall, the county man accused in a fatal fireworks store fire four years ago.

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The records indicate doctors are trying to treat Hall so that he eventually can leave his current restricted hospital housing.

Unsealing the records followed an attorney’s request at Hall’s March 15 recommitment hearing before Walton in Lawrence County Common Pleas Court.

Walton agreed with the Ohio Department of Mental Health that Hall should spend more time in a state-run psychiatric hospital. But, attorney J. Michael Evans asked the court to permanently seal Hall’s medical arguing they were no longer public records.

The records were temporarily sealed until motions from both sides could be reviewed.

Walton disagreed with Evans in an order filed Friday that denied the attorney’s request to seal the medical records.

The records contain a report that lists general medical and behavioral treatment Hall has received in the last year at Cambridge Psychiatric Hospital.

Clinical psychologist Denise A. Kohler wrote the report, which included statements that, although Hall’s conduct has improved recently, he continues to show difficulties with social situations, has extreme difficulty censoring his own behavior and does not think before responding.

The hospital uses a behavioral treatment method that allows him to earn freedom of movement and visits with his father, which shows promise, the report stated.

But, Hall has been aggressive, causing minor injuries to staff at times, Dr. Kohler wrote.

Hall does not exhibit desires to harm others or himself, but remains a danger, the report stated.

Dr. Kohler recommended Hall spend another two years at Cambridge, then listed the long-term goals of his treatment.

"Thus far, the plan is to continue to work toward increasing movement levels with the hope of transferring Mr. Hall to our unlocked transition unit," she wrote. "We expect that in time, given the absence of dangerous behavior, he will be recommended for Level IV and V (movement), allowing him to leave hospital grounds.

"Mr. Hall’s prognosis for change is guarded due to his permanent brain injury."

In explaining his decision to open the records, Walton wrote that medical records are not open to the public when they pertain to the "medical condition of a patient AND when generated and maintained in the process of of medical treatment." Walton quoted state statute, but added the emphasis on the word "and."

Because the court still retains jurisdiction in Hall’s case, the psychiatric reports required by the court are not written for the "process of his medical treatment" and, therefore, are public records, Walton wrote.

In the fireworks fire court case, judges found Hall incompetent to stand trial on arson and involuntary manslaughter charges related to the 1996 Scottown fireworks fire that killed nine people. His commitment to a state mental health facility stemmed from that decision and he was transferred from a maximum security facility to Cambridge.

In March 1998, Walton ordered the two-year commitment, finding Hall still a danger to himself and the public.