Prosecutors end case with Basu videotape Defense also closes, calling 4 witnesses in less than an hour

April 22, 1993|By Alan J. Craver | Alan J. Craver,Staff Writer

After eight days, 38 witnesses and 166 pieces of evidence, prosecutors in the Pam Basu carjacking murder trial finished their case yesterday. The lawyer for the teen-ager on trial finished his case as well -- calling four witnesses, all in less than one hour.

Bernard Eric Miller, 17, did not testify in his own defense.

"Bernard, himself, just didn't feel he wanted to take the stand," said Laurack D. Bray, a Washington attorney for Mr. Miller.

The prosecutors capped their case yesterday morning with a video that shows Mr. Miller and co-defendant Rodney Eugene Soloman walking by Dr. Basu's home as she puts her young daughter in her BMW moments before the carjacking.

Mr. Miller, of Washington, is one of two men charged in the Sept. 8 carjacking murder of Dr. Basu, a 34-year-old research chemist dragged to her death after being forced from her car. He is charged with first-degree murder and 12 other counts.

Prosecutors objected when Mr. Bray began questioning McLindsey Hawkins, security supervisor at the county Detention Center, about whether Mr. Miller ever complained about being threatened by Mr. Soloman. The line of questioning was dropped after a discussion between the attorneys at Judge Dennis Sweeney's bench while the jury was out of the courtroom.

Mr. Bray said he had intended to present more witnesses but cut his case short after the judge's ruling that his contentions that Mr. Soloman threatened his client after their arrests were irrelevant.

"We vehemently disagree with that," Mr. Bray said. "We intended to show there was a pattern."

Earlier, Tony Williams Jr., a friend of Mr. Miller, testified that Mr. Miller was not close friends with Mr. Soloman. A passer-by, James Gray of North Laurel, testified that Mr. Miller appeared "cordial" when he saw him with Mr. Soloman near the Forest Ridge Elementary School before the carjacking.

Yesterday's most-anticipated moment was the Basu family video, which was made by Dr. Basu's husband to commemorate the first day of nursery school for the couple's 22-month-old daughter.

The video opens with Dr. Basu and her daughter Sarina walking down the sidewalk to a 1990 BMW sedan outside their Savage home. Dr. Basu waits at a rear-passenger door as her daughter slowly walks along a curb to her smiling and waving mother. The woman briefly struggles with the girl as she picks her up to put her in the car.

That's when Mr. Soloman appears, casually walking down the street about 20 feet away from the parked car. He holds his right hand up to his head and turns away from the video camera back to Mr. Miller, who is about 10 paces behind.

Mr. Miller takes long strides along the sidewalk across from the Basus' home.

The videotape ends just before Dr. Basu drives away. Prosecutors contend that Mr. Miller and Mr. Soloman forced her from the car at an intersection about one block away.

Witnesses testified that Dr. Basu's left arm became entangled in the driver's side seat belt during a fight with the men. She was dragged alongside the car for about two miles.

Prosecutors introduced four versions of the videotape that were enhanced by the FBI: One was brightened, one was put into slow motion, and two zoom in on the defendants. They also provided jurors with 21 photographs taken from the video.

The jury attentively watched the videos on two monitors. The videos each lasted about one minute.

Prosecutors acknowledged the video is key to their case.

"Nothing can be more probative than a videotape and the still pictures of the individuals right before a crime was committed," Senior Assistant State's Attorney Michael Rexroad said at a hearing before the tape was introduced. But Mr. Bray dismissed the video. "All it does is place him at the scene. And we've said that already," Mr. Bray said.

Proceedings continue today with the judge's instructions, closing statements and jury deliberations. Mr. Miller, charged as an adult, faces a maximum sentence of life in prison without parole if convicted. He was initially indicted on 19 charges, but Judge Sweeney dismissed three counts -- theft, attempted theft and battery -- after Mr. Bray argued that there was no evidence to support them.

Prosecutors dropped charges of manslaughter, assault with intent to murder, and assault with intent to maim to simplify deliberations for the jury, Mr. Rexroad said.

Mr. Soloman, 27, of Washington, faces the death penalty for first-degree murder and 18 other counts. His case has been moved to Baltimore County for a trial on Aug. 2.

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