Circuit judge grants request to mnove Basu carjacking trial out of Howard HOWARD COUNTY

February 26, 1993|By Alan J. Craver | Alan J. Craver,Staff Writer

The trial of a Washington man facing the death penalty for the carjacking killing of Pam Basu will be moved out of Howard County.

Attorneys requested the change of venue for Rodney Eugene Soloman in Howard Circuit Court yesterday, contending that the 27-year-old defendant cannot get a fair and impartial trial in Howard.

Public Defender Carol Hanson submitted the request at a hearing in which Judge Dennis Sweeney ruled that prosecutors could use statements Mr. Soloman made to police when he was arrested Sept. 8. Under state law, such requests are automatically granted for defendants in death-penalty cases.

Maryland Court of Appeals Judge Robert Murphy, who oversees the state's circuit courts, is expected to decide when and where Mr. Solomon's trial will be held.

Ms. Hanson said she hopes that the trial will start March 29, which is when Mr. Soloman was to face first-degree murder and 18 other counts in Howard Circuit Court.

The defendant's request was not a surprise to prosecutors.

"I knew they had a right to do it," senior Assistant State's Attorney Michael Rexroad said. "But this is the first case in many, many years that's been removed from Howard County."

At yesterday's hearing, Judge Sweeney ruled that Mr. Soloman voluntarily gave his statements and that investigators did not violate his rights to obtain them.

The defendant made statements to police after his arrest in the Sept. 8 slaying of Dr. Basu, a research chemist from Savage who was dragged to her death after being forced from her car. She was dragged nearly two miles when her arm became entangled in a seat belt harness.

Investigators recorded one of those statements in an interview with Mr. Soloman hours after he initially refused to talk to them without an attorney.

But the defendant signed a waiver of his rights to have an attorney present during the second interview, according to testimony at a hearing earlier this month.

Defense attorneys asserted that investigators prompted the second interview by visiting Mr. Soloman in a cell at the Police Department. But Judge Sweeney rejected that argument.

"It was the defendant who took the occasion to reopen the door he had earlier slammed shut," the judge said. "It was clearly Mr. Soloman who reinitiated the interrogation."

Only the first 10 minutes of the taped interview were played in court. The content of the rest of the interview was not disclosed.

Mr. Soloman blames co-defendant Bernard Eric Miller, 17, of Washington, for the carjacking in the first part of the tape.

In another statement, Mr. Soloman said he was jogging when he was arrested in a pasture off Route 108 in Highlands shortly after the carjacking.

The defendant told an officer that his arrest was a case of "mistaken identity" and that he would beat any charges filed against him, according to testimony.

In another hearing yesterday, Judge Sweeney ruled that prosecutors can use five of seven oral and taped statements the Miller youth gave to police. The Miller youth told investigators in one statement that Mr. Soloman grabbed Dr. Basu and told him to get into her BMW sedan.

The contents of the remaining statements, obtained during interviews on Sept. 9 and 10, were not disclosed in court.

Judge Sweeney is not permitting prosecutors to use statements Mr. Soloman gave to police during an interview on Sept. 8 because the defendant said he wanted an attorney.

The Miller youth faces first-degree murder and 18 other counts in the slaying. He faces a maximum sentence of life in prison without parole if convicted. He's scheduled for a Howard Circuit Court trial on May 3.

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