Calm settles over county courthouse in aftermath of stormy Miller trial

April 27, 1993|By Alan J. Craver | Alan J. Craver,Staff Writer

When Charlene Nazelrod woke up yesterday, the first thing she thought about was that she would easily find a parking space at her job at the Howard Circuit Courthouse for the first time in weeks.

Gone are the large vans operated by television news crews. Parking spaces are no longer set aside for jurors. And the rest of the parking lot is free of vehicles operated by courtroom spectators.

Life at the county courthouse is back to routine now that the trial of one of the men charged for the Pam Basu carjacking murder is over.

"I wouldn't want to have to go through this again," said Ms. Nazelrod, a criminal court clerk.

For much of the last three weeks, Howard Circuit Court was in the media spotlight for the trial of Bernard Eric Miller, a 17-year-old Washington youth convicted Friday of felony murder for the Sept. 8 slaying of Dr. Basu.

Court officials said the Miller trial captured the most media attention in recent memory, more than the trial of Eric Tirado, who was convicted of killing a state police trooper in 1991.

Now, the courthouse is quiet. Sheriff deputies monitor a trickle of people arriving for courthouse business. A few lawyers consult with their clients in the hallway. Employees go about their work.

"It's absolutely back to normal," Court Administrator John Shatto said. "Everybody is working their normal caseload."

Judge Dennis Sweeney, who presided over the Miller trial, was back on the bench, this time handling a civil case about a dispute over a will.rosecutors Michael Rexroad and Joseph Murtha have turned their attention to other cases.

For court clerk Christa Coppinger, the end of the Miller trial spells relief.

"It was chaotic to say the least," Ms. Coppinger said. "Everything was just so rush, rush, rush."

The Miller trial meant long hours for Ms. Coppinger, who kept track of the judge's rulings, motions from prosecution and defense attorneys, and nearly 170 exhibits used as evidence during the trial.

"I was exhausted," Ms. Coppinger said. "It was a relief to come in today and not have all that to deal with."

While she is more relaxed, Ms. Coppinger noted that she is behind in her other duties because of the Miller case.

The trial interrupted even the most routine of routines: Getting in and out of the courthouse.

Ms. Nazelrod and co-worker Diana Liebno said it was sometimes aggravating for employees to get to work because of the television crews and photographers circling the doors with cameras, tripods and other equipment to capture witnesses, jurors and attorneys on film.

But the coverage provided some light moments for employees. Workers often joked about seeing one another in the background of television reports as they entered or left the courthouse or stepped outside for a cigarette during breaks.

Mr. Shatto noted that he already started talking with officials in Baltimore County Circuit Court to provide them with tips for handling the trial of co-defendant Rodney Eugene Soloman in August.

Ms. Liebno noted, "I think we're all glad the Soloman case is in Baltimore County."

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