The trials of two Washington men charged in the brutal carjacking death of a Savage woman were postponed yesterday while prosecutors wait for the FBI to provide what could be key evidence -- pictures of the accused men near Pam Basu's home.
Howard County Circuit Judge Raymond Kane Jr. granted the postponements -- over the vigorous objections of defense attorneys -- after prosecutors said their evidence against Rodney Eugene Soloman and Bernard Eric Miller would not be ready for trials, which were to begin next week.
The defendants have each been charged with first-degree murder and 18 other counts for the slaying of Dr. Basu, who was dragged to her death after thieves forced her from her car Sept. 8.
Michael Rexroad, an assistant state's attorney handling the cases, said the anticipated evidence includes a videotape that the victim's husband, Steve Basu, made of his wife and daughter outside their house shortly before the carjacking. The tape shows Mr. Soloman and Mr. Miller walking in the Basus' neighborhood, he said.
Prosecutors are waiting for the FBI to provide them with photographs from the videotape to present to the jury at the trials, Mr. Rexroad said.
But attorneys for the defendants argued that their clients should not have to wait for the trials because the county State's Attorney's Office does not have all the evidence for the cases.
Public Defender Carol Hanson, who is representing Mr. Soloman, said the last-minute postponement request is unacceptable because prosecutors have known the trial dates since late September.
"This is a problem that is endemic of the State's Attorney's Office," Ms. Hanson said.
Ms. Hanson and Laurack Bray, a Washington attorney for Mr. Miller, said prosecutors provided them with evidence and reports in the last month, when it should have been ready months ago.
The defense attorneys noted that they received 242 pages of police reports on Jan. 29 -- four months after the carjacking and less than one month before the initial trial dates.
"The state is simply withholding evidence," Mr. Bray contended. "There is no credence that this evidence is still being worked on."
But Mr. Rexroad said the postponement can't be helped, noting that his office is experiencing a growing caseload while it is also suffering from budget cuts.
"It's not a perfect world," he said. "There are other major cases. We have to do more with less."
The prosecutor listed numerous evidence reports he is waiting to receive from the county police department, the state police and FBI crime laboratories.
The prosecutors need fingerprint analysis reports from county police, as well as reports on blood and urine tests from the state police laboratory, Mr. Rexroad said.
In addition, prosecutors are waiting for a sketch of the crime scene to be finished, Mr. Rexroad said. They also may have to hire an accident reconstruction expert, pending the outcome of a defense report of the carjacking.
Meanwhile, hearings on requests by the defense attorneys to block some evidence, such as statements the defendants made to police after their arrest, are to be held today and tomorrow.
Mr. Soloman, 26, is now scheduled for trial on March 29, while Mr. Miller, 17, is to stand trial on May 3.