82 qualify as jurors for Basu murder trial More candidates set for interviews today HOWARD COUNTY

April 07, 1993|By Alan J. Craver | Alan J. Craver,Staff Writer

The man stepped before the judge, two lawyers and the defendant in the Pam Basu murder case yesterday and said it hit too close to home. His son had been a carjacking victim just six months ago.

"He just purchased a new car," said the man, a potential juror. "A gun was placed to his head and he was robbed of his vehicle."

Another jury candidate, a Columbia teacher, said it straight out: She believes Bernard Eric Miller, 17, of Washington is guilty of first-degree murder in the Sept. 8 carjacking.

Both were dismissed.

They were among about 90 people questioned during the second day of jury selection for Mr. Miller's trial. At least 82 people have qualified for the jury. Selection continues today and the trial, which starts Monday, is expected to last at least two weeks.

After half of the interviews yesterday, only one person said she never heard about the Basu carjacking, a crime that captured the nation's attention.

The woman, who qualified as a potential juror, explained that she didn't hear about the case because she was starting a new job at the time and it demanded most of her attention.

Asking some potential jurors whether they had heard about the case was stating the obvious.

"I would have to be on another planet not to have heard of it," said a man from North Laurel.

Most people who said they heard about case explained they would be able to set aside what they read in newspapers or saw on the television news to reach a verdict based on the trial evidence.

Others, however, said they could not change their minds, regardless of the evidence and were excused.

"[Mr. Miller] was there," said the Columbia teacher. "I would say that he was participating. He was in the car. He didn't get out before the victim died."

The potential jurors include a husband and wife from Jessup. He was qualified Monday and she was qualified yesterday. Judge Dennis Sweeney instructed both to return for the final selection tomorrow.

Many people said they would have difficulty serving for such a long trial, but most were not excused. However there were numerous reasons why some people were released from duty.

Several people had traveling plans -- one to Disney World in Florida, one to South Carolina, and another to Greece.

A man was excused so he could be with his wife when she delivers their first child. A woman was excused because her husband's grandfather is on his deathbed and she wanted to be with relatives. A Glenwood woman said the trial would interfere with running a machine shop she operates with her husband.

Most of the interviews with potential jurors took place in a conference room closed to the public.

Reporters were permitted to observe interviews yesterday after a lawyer for The Baltimore Sun wrote a letter to Judge Sweeney to express concern that the closed interviews on Monday violated the First Amendment of the Constitution.

Court Administrator John Shatto said arrangements for reporters to observe the interviews on Monday could have been made, but he did not receive any such requests. Officials, however, did not tell the half-dozen reporters present for the proceedings that they could watch the interviews.

Officials want at least 85 people before they start selecting the 12 jurors plus alternates. Laurack Bray, a Washington attorney for Mr. Miller, said that won't be enough.

"I know it's more time and more trouble," Mr. Bray said. "But based on what we have now, I don't think it's a measureable cross section [of the community]."

Mr. Miller, who is being tried as an adult, is charged with first-degree murder and 18 other counts for the slaying of Dr. Basu. The resident of Savage was dragged to her death after being forced from her BMW at an intersection near her home.

If convicted, he faces a maximum sentence of life in prison without parole. Prosecutors are prohibited from seeking the death penalty for juveniles under state law.

Co-defendant Rodney Eugene Soloman, 27, of Washington faces the death penalty for his role in the slaying. His case has been moved to Baltimore County, but a trial date has not been set.

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