Carjack defendant loses bid to have case dismissed

April 08, 1993|By Alan J. Craver | Alan J. Craver,Staff Writer

The Washington youth accused in the Pam Basu carjacking murder sought unsuccessfully yesterday to have the charges against him dismissed.

The attorney for Bernard Eric Miller argued that his client's right to a speedy trial was violated because the trial was scheduled two weeks beyond the six-month limit for such proceedings.

After a hearing, Howard County Circuit Judge Dennis Sweeney denied the request, saying he found no grounds to dismiss the charges.

"The length of the delay is really quite minimal, given the complexity of the case," Judge Sweeney said.

State and federal laws require defendants to receive a trial within six months of their initial court appearance, unless the court rules that there is "good cause" for a delay.

Dr. Basu was dragged to her death Sept. 8 after being forced from her car near her Savage home.

Mr. Miller, 17, is charged with first-degree murder and 18 other counts.

Jury selection for his trial started Monday and concludes today. Testimony in the case begins Monday and will last for up to two weeks.

The defendant made his formal court appearance on Sept. 22. The six-month period for his case expired on March 21 -- 14 days before proceedings for his trial started.

His trial was initially scheduled for Feb. 22, but was postponed by Judge Raymond Kane Jr. after prosecutors said their evidence for the trial was not ready.

Judge Kane also postponed the trial of co-defendant Rodney Eugene Soloman, 27, of Washington. Mr. Soloman's trial has since been moved to Baltimore and has not been rescheduled.

Mr. Miller's attorney, Laurack Bray of Washington, asserts that prosecutors did not provide Judge Kane with a sufficient reason to postpone his client's trial.

"We feel there is simply not good cause for the postponement," Mr. Bray said. "The state was simply not prepared to try either case."

Assistant State's Attorney Joseph Murtha noted that prosecutors did not have key evidence that is crucial to their case.

The evidence included results of blood tests, fingerprint examinations and photographs the FBI made from a videotape belonging to the Basu family.

Mr. Murtha added that in some cases state appellate courts have ruled that delays of up to 23 months have not been found to violate the rights of defendants.

Today, prosecution and defense attorneys are to select the 12 jurors to hear testimony in Mr. Miller's case from a pool of 100 county residents who qualified as potential jurors after three days of interviews. A total of 192 potential jurors -- more than double the usual in a murder trial -- were interviewed.

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