Jury hears Miller interviews Teen in Basu case told differing stories

August 13, 1993|By Alan J. Craver | Alan J. Craver,Staff Writer

Lawyers for the man accused of driving the car that dragged Pam Basu to her death sought to raise doubts for jurors yesterday by playing tapes in which an accomplice first admits and then denies being behind the wheel.

The jury is expected to begin deliberations today in the Baltimore County Circuit Court trial of 27-year-old Rodney Eugene Solomon. Mr. Solomon could face the death penalty if convicted.

In yesterday's proceedings, defense attorneys played three interviews with Bernard Eric Miller, 17, of Washington. Police recorded the interviews after his arrest.

Miller said he was driving Dr. Basu's BMW in one interview. In another interview, he said he was driving with Mr. Solomon sitting on his lap. In a third interview, he said Mr. Solomon was driving and then switched his story and said he was driving with Mr. Solomon on his lap.

The tapes of the interviews were played for the jury of nine women and three men after Miller refused to testify when called as a witness by defense attorneys.

"I invoke my right to remain silent," Miller told Judge Dana Mark Levitz. He was then escorted from the courtroom, wearing shackles and his prison uniform.

Miller is serving a life sentence for his role in the Sept. 8, 1992, slaying of Dr. Basu. He was convicted in April, after a Howard Circuit Court trial. His conviction has been appealed.

Miller was called as a witness to support assertions by defense attorneys that he was driving the car that dragged Dr. Basu nearly two miles to her death. Prosecutors maintain that Mr. Solomon was the driver.

After defense attorneys rested their case, prosecutors presented one rebuttal witness -- Sgt. Cheryl Chew, a guard at the Howard Detention Center, where Mr. Solomon and Miller were taken after their arrest.

Sergeant Chew testified she heard Mr. Solomon and Miller talking through a brick wall between their cells from Sept. 8 to Sept 10. She did not testify about what they said.

Miller requested to talk with investigators while at the Detention Center on Sept. 9 and again on Sept. 10. A Sept. 8 interview was at the police station.

Despite contradictions in the interviews, Miller consistently said that it was Mr. Solomon's idea to steal Dr. Basu's BMW and that Mr. Solomon forced the scientist from the car.

Mr. Solomon and Miller confronted Dr. Basu while she was stopped at an intersection near her home in Savage in Howard County.

"Me and Rodney waited for the lady at the stop sign," Miller told investigators in one interview. "He said he was gonna rough her car.

Miller also said during the interviews that Mr. Solomon threatened him. "He said if I told anybody about this he was going to kill me."

Assistant Public Defender Samuel Truette first played Miller's Sept. 10 interview. Miller said he got into the driver's seat after Mr. Solomon pulled Dr. Basu from the car.

Miller said he drove off with Dr. Basu being dragged alongside the sedan after her left arm became "hooked" to the car's seat belt.

He told police he then stopped to get Dr. Basu's 22-month-old daughter out of the car's back seat because she was making "loud, aggravating noises." He said he tossed the girl, sitting in a child-safety seat, onto the road. She was unharmed.

Miller said he continued driving, still dragging Dr. Basu's body, until he lost control of the car and struck a barbed-wire fence.

Mr. Solomon then took over the steering wheel after removing Dr. Basu's body from the car, Miller said.

The defense attorneys then played the Sept. 9 interview. Miller said he got into the driver's seat after Mr. Solomon pulled Dr. Basu from the car. Mr. Solomon then got into the car, sitting on his lap, Miller said.

They both sat in the driver's seat until they struck the barbed-wire fence, Miller said.

Mr. Solomon removed the body and put Dr. Basu's daughter out of the car, Miller said. This contradicts previous testimony that showed the girl was put out of the sedan before the car hit the fence.

In an interview several hours after his arrest, Miller said he waited beside a house for Mr. Solomon to get Dr. Basu out of the BMW. With Mr. Solomon driving, Miller said he got into the car.

Miller at one point interrupted the interview to say he was driving. He explained he started driving after Dr. Basu was forced from the car, with Mr. Solomon sitting on him. Miller kept driving while Mr. Solomon tried to push him out of the way until they struck the fence.

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