Johns Hopkins Magazine -- September 1997
Johns Hopkins Magazine


O N    C A M P U S E S

Plea bargain nets Harwood 35 years... good news from the waterfront... stem cell saga... an arts center that's three-in-one... 3.672

Robert J. Harwood Jr.
Student's killer gets 35-year sentence
A Baltimore circuit court judge sentenced former Hopkins student Robert J. Harwood Jr. to 35 years in prison for the slaying of fellow undergraduate Rex T. Chao. The sentence, handed down in July, resulted from a plea agreement reached just before the case came to trial. Harwood pled guilty to second-degree murder and a felony handgun violation.

On April 10, 1996, Harwood, 23, shot Chao in the head and chest beside a campus walkway near the Eisenhower Library. The two had been close friends. But when Chao tried to distance himself from Harwood months before the slaying, the latter began a series of harassing telephone calls and electronic messages that led Chao to complain to university officials. On the evening of the shooting, Harwood had denounced Chao at a campus meeting of the Hopkins College Republican Club, before confronting him on the walkway.

Judge John C. Themelis recommended admitting Harwood to the psychiatric treatment program at Maryland's maximum-security Patuxent Institution. State and defense psychiatrists had concluded that Harwood suffers from personality disorders, including depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and paranoid delusions.

Violent offenders in Maryland usually are eligible for parole after they have served half of their sentences. But if he is admitted to Patuxent, that institution's review board would take precedence over a state parole board and would be empowered to release Harwood whenever it deemed him fit to return to society.

This concerned Chao's parents, Rosetta and Robert Chao of Port Washington, New York. In a statement issued through their attorney, they said, "We hope and pray that the parole board will remember the heinous circumstances of this crime against our talented and beloved son and not allow Harwood early parole. If his consummate ability to manipulate people with his misspent intelligence permits him to obtain early parole, there is no assurance he will not kill again."

In the same statement, they said, "No punishment could be too severe for a cold-blooded murderer. We appreciate the consideration extended to us by the prosecutors throughout the process and concur with the plea-bargain agreement between the prosecutor and the defendant--in large part because a trial would be too painful and devastating to our entire family."

The lawyer for the Chao family, Ty Cobb, said, "I think that there's a good chance that this guy will serve a minimum of 17 1/2 to 20 years, regardless of where he goes. I would not interpret the sentence he received as transmutable by the Patuxent people. I can assure you that 17 1/2 years from now, if there's still breath in my body, on behalf of this family I'm going to do my best to persuade the parole board not to let him out."

Still pending is a civil action. In March, Chao's parents sued Harwood for $60 million in Baltimore circuit court, seeking to hold him financially responsible for the death of their son. Harwood then countersued for $110 million, for "malicious abuse of process." --DK

Varsity Four make a splash
After capturing a silver medal at the prestigious Dad Vail Regatta in May, the
varsity four women's crew earned an invitation to compete in the first-ever NCAA women's rowing championships in Sacramento, California.

For the Division III Hopkins women, making it to the national championship was heady stuff: among the 16 schools invited to compete were such crew powerhouses as Brown, Princeton, and the University of Washington. The Hopkins crew, which included (l to r) Jennifer Kloss '97, Laura Rauchfuss '97, Kristy Hsiao '98, Katie Prescott '97, and Mindy Lo '98 (kneeling), rowed the Finn Casperson to a 12th place finish in the competition. --SD

Stalking the stem cell, part II
Stem cells are great instigators. They give rise to the myriad cells of the blood and lymph systems. And in the early 1980s, a young pediatric oncologist named Curt Civin discovered a way to pluck out the stem cell from the diverse soup of a blood sample, a technique that eventually would be put to use to give patients with leukemia and other illnesses a potential life-saving therapy (a story covered in our June 1996 feature,
"Stalking the Stem Cell"). But oh, what else stem cells have spawned--a complicated legal battle with millions of dollars at stake.

The story, in a nutshell, is this: In 1987, Johns Hopkins was granted its first patent for Civin's discovery; the technology to commercialize stem cell separation was licensed to Baxter Healthcare Corporation and Becton, Dickinson & Co. (An incidental subplot to this story is that in 1980, Congress passed the Bayh-Dole Act, which allows universities and other nonprofit organizations to patent discoveries funded by government grants and to sell licenses to manufacturers to develop the technology into a product.)

Trouble started when a Seattle company named CellPro began manufacturing and selling its own stem cell separation apparatus, which uses Civin's technique.

Hopkins cried foul.

Last spring, Hopkins argued in federal court that CellPro had turned down offers to purchase licenses to Civin's technology, and, in effect, had stolen Hopkins's technology. The judge ruled in Hopkins's favor and ordered CellPro to pay $2.1 million to Hopkins, Baxter, and Becton Dickinson.

But the story didn't end there.

CellPro exercised a provision of the Bayh-Dole Act that allows the government (in this case the National Institutes of Health) to "march-in" and override a university's patent rights when the holder of the patent has not transferred technology from lab to consumer quickly enough, or when the health and safety of consumers is not being protected. The Bayh-Dole's "march-in" provision has never been used before. CellPro claimed that Baxter and Becton Dickinson hadn't acted quickly enough to bring its device to market, and asked the federal government to grant it a license that would allow the company to continue marketing the machinery so that patients could continue to receive vital treatment.

But in July, a federal judge tripled the $2.1 million damages against CellPro. In his ruling, Judge Roderick McKelvie wrote that "CellPro's motivation is greed," according to The Baltimore Sun. He also ordered CellPro to halt sales of its machines, but delayed the injunction until Baxter Healthcare wins FDA approval for its own device. CellPro plans to appeal. -- MH

Plans call for the new arts center to be done in brick and glass.
A winning design for student arts center
Hopkins wanted a student arts center for the Homewood campus. It's getting three of them, sort of.

The architectural firm of Tod Williams Billie Tsien and Associates recently submitted the winning entry in the small (three contenders) design competition for the center. The architects' design eschews one large, central facility for three smaller structures that will create a new courtyard and blend with their wooded setting and existing pedestrian pathways.

The center will occupy land just west of Charles Street, near the Merrick Barn and Whitehead Hall. One end of the courtyard will open to a view of the Baltimore Museum of Art sculpture garden; the architects propose a new walkway linking the two, to create a corridor from the Merrick Barn to the arts center to the sculpture garden. The design preserves as much of the woods as possible.

The three structures will have 53,000 square feet of space, combined. Plans call for a "black box" theater that will seat 125-150 people, music practice rooms, a dance studio, art studios, a film and media center, meeting rooms, lounges, and a cafe. The buildings will be done in brick and glass, and may utilize the roofs as additional outdoor space. The price tag has been set at $12 million, to be raised as part of the university's current capital campaign; at press time, approximately $9 million had been pledged toward the center.

Architects Tod Williams and Billie Tsien are hot at the moment. They've attracted considerable attention for several of their recent designs (which include an addition to the Phoenix Art Museum and a neurosciences institute in San Diego). For what it's worth, both made Newsweek's recent list of "100 Americans for the Next Century." Their design for Hopkins bested competing entries from Bohlin Cywinski Jackson, of Wilkes Barre, Pennsylvania, and Heikkinen Komonen Architects, of Finland.

The university hopes to begin construction next year--once the full $12 million for the project has been raised. --DK

That's the average spring-term GPA of the 14 seniors on last season's
swimming and diving team. Two senior swimmers earned perfect 4.0s. "This group may have been one of the best academically in our athletic history," says coach George Kennedy.

The aquatic Jays exceled inside the pool as well: The men's swimming team won its 27th straight conference championship; the Blue Jays now hold the longest active conference title streak in Division III swimming history. The team went on to finish sixth in the NCAA Division III championships, with junior sensation Matt Johnson (above) earning the national title in the 100-yard butterfly for the third straight year.

For the women's team it was a rebuilding year. Though the female Jays had finished in the Top 10 at the NCAA championships for four years running, the team last season finished 23rd. --SD

Written by Sue De Pasquale, Melissa Hendricks, and Dale Keiger.