First testimony could be today in carjacking trial Man is accused in Basu death

August 05, 1993|By Alan J. Craver | Alan J. Craver,Staff Writer

Court officials are expected to finish jury selection and begin testimony today in the case of a Washington man charged in the Pam Basu carjacking death.

But before proceedings start, attorneys for Rodney Eugene Solomon will again ask a judge to move the case to another county for trial. Their first request was rejected last month.

Prosecutors, meanwhile, provided defense attorneys with a list of six witnesses who might be called to testify today.

Mr. Solomon, 27, is on trial in Baltimore County Circuit Court on 19 counts, including first-degree murder, in connection with the Sept. 8, 1992, slaying of the research scientist. He could face the death penalty if convicted.

Co-defendant Bernard Eric Miller, 17, of Washington is serving a life sentence for his role in the slaying. He was convicted in Howard County Circuit Court in April.

Dr. Basu became entangled in a seat belt as she was forced from her car and was dragged nearly two miles to her death as the assailants sped away. Her 22-month-old daughter, who was in the vehicle's back seat during the carjacking, was unharmed.

Prosecutors and defense attorneys are in dispute over which defendant was driving the car.

The incident occurred near Dr. Basu's home in Savage in Howard County, but the trial was moved to Baltimore County.

Mr. Solomon requested in February that his trial be moved out of Howard County. Such requests are automatically granted in death penalty cases, and court officials picked Baltimore County as the site of the trial.

But the defense lawyers have argued that it is impossible for Mr. Solomon to get a fair trial in Baltimore County because potential jurors have been subjected to the same extensive publicity as residents in neighboring Howard have.

The names of the first witnesses to be called were not released, but if the prosecution's case follows the route of the Miller trial, the jury will hear from Lashawn Smith, who testified at the Miller trial that Mr. Solomon and Miller drove her to the Woodstock Jobs Corps center in Baltimore after she missed a bus.

Heading up Interstate 95, the Cadillac they were riding in ran out of gas, Ms. Smith testified. Mr. Solomon and Miller went to look for fuel while Ms. Smith and a fourth occupant stayed with the car, she testified.

The jury also will hear from two women who testified at the Miller trial that Mr. Solomon and Miller attempted to steal their cars before the two men confronted Dr. Basu.

Grace Lagana of Laurel testified that Mr. Solomon and Miller struggled with her over her car keys as she arrived at her job at a tourism center along I-95.

Ms. Lagana testified that Mr. Solomon and Miller fled into the woods behind the rest area when they couldn't get the car to start and a man ran to help her.

Laura Becraft testified at the first trial that Mr. Solomon and Miller confronted her outside her North Laurel home and demanded the keys to her minivan. When she refused, she testified, the men fled.

Testimony later in the trial is expected to come from two people who saw Dr. Basu struggling with two men at her car but thought it was a domestic struggle and did not want to get involved.

Other prosecution witnesses are expected to testify about their horror as they saw Dr. Basu's body being dragged alongside her stolen BMW.

Prosecutors also are expected to introduce a videotape made by Dr. Basu's husband as he and his wife prepared to take their daughter to her first day at nursery school. The video shows Mr. Solomon and Miller walking by the Basu house minutes before the carjacking.

Before testimony starts today, attorneys in the case must pick 12 jurors and four alternates from a pool of 67 candidates. A total of 111 people have been interviewed this week for the four-week trial.

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