Defendant in Basu carjacking trial says police pressured him for statement Detectives say teen had 'total control'

February 19, 1993|By Alan J. Craver | Alan J. Craver,Staff Writer

Howard County police officers may have pressured a teen-ager suspected in the murder of Pam Basu until he described what occurred during the fatal carjacking, the youth's defense attorney said yesterday.

But Detective Lee Lachman said the suspect, Bernard Eric Miller, 17, of Washington, freely gave the statements. Detective Lachman said the defendant called him twice from the county Detention Center to be interviewed.

Detective Lachman testified at a Howard Circuit Court hearing yesterday as part of Mr. Miller's efforts to block statements he gave to police from being used against him at his trial, which is scheduled for May 3.

Laurack Bray, a Washington attorney for Mr. Miller, said after the hearing that he believes investigators kept questioning his client until they got statements they could use in court.

"The statements that were given, they were not freely given," Mr. Bray said. "They were at least pressured . . . . The questioning continued until he made a statement they were satisfied with."

During the hearing, Detective Lachman said investigators questioned Mr. Miller a total of six times on the day he was arrested and on the two days after the arrest.

Three of the interviews were recorded.

The content of the interviews was not discussed.

Mr. Miller told the investigators that he understood his rights to have an attorney present during questioning but wanted to give his statement without one, the detective said.

While going over the rights, Mr. Miller at one point interrupted investigators to say that he wanted a lawyer, Detective Lachman said.

But when investigators went on to explain the right, Mr. Miller said he meant to say that he wanted a lawyer when his case went to court.

Mr. Bray said the investigators should have stopped interviewing Mr. Miller after he first asked for an attorney.

Detective Lachman said Mr. Miller signed waivers to his rights before each of the three interviews after the Sept. 8 slaying.

"I spent so much time going over his rights," the detective said.

"He had total control over his destiny."

Under cross examination, Detective Lachman said he did not believe Mr. Miller's statements until their third meeting on Sept. 10.

Detective Lachman said Mr. Miller began making statements about the carjacking before he even got to the police station.

Mr. Miller blamed the carjacking on his co-defendant, 26-year-old Rodney Eugene Soloman of Washington, while sitting in a police car off Route 108 in Highland, where he was arrested, Detective Lachman said.

said 'Rodney grabbed the lady. Rodney took the car and told me to get in,' " Detective Lachman said.

Mr. Soloman and Mr. Miller 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 being forced from her car.

Mr. Soloman would face the death penalty if convicted, while Mr. Miller would face a maximum sentence of life in prison without parole.

Attorneys for Mr. Soloman also are trying to his statements to police from being used at his trial.

The hearings for Mr. Miller and Mr. Soloman continue today.

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