Sentencing begins for Solomon Edited statements from family allowed HOWARD COUNTY

August 17, 1993|By Alan J. Craver | Alan J. Craver,Staff Writer

Pam Basu's relatives described her killers as "vicious" and "barbarous men" but jurors will not hear the descriptions when the family's statements are introduced today.

The Baltimore County Circuit Court jury that convicted Rodney Eugene Solomon, 27, of Washington, will hear testimony about whether he should be sentenced to die in the gas chamber or to life in prison.

Solomon was found guilty Friday of first-degree murder for the Sept. 8, 1992, carjacking slaying of Dr. Basu, a 33-year-old scientist forced from her car near her home in Howard County and dragged nearly two miles to her death after her arm became entangled in a seat belt harness. Solomon's trial was moved to Baltimore County.

Judge Dana Mark Levitz denied a request by Solomon's attorneys at a hearing yesterday to prevent prosecutors from presenting the jury with victim-impact statements prepared by Dr. Basu's husband, sister and parents.

"We would argue that the prejudicial nature of the victim-impact statements outweigh their probative value," Public Defender Carol Hanson said.

Judge Levitz and defense attorneys went through the statements -- used by prosecutors to show how relatives of a murder victim are affected by the crime -- to determine what the jurors should and should not hear from Dr. Basu's family.

The judge granted requests to remove parts of the statements that describe the carjacking incident and the character of Solomon and a second defendant, 17-year-old Bernard Eric Miller of Washington. He also removed portions where the Basu family suggests that Solomon receive the death penalty.

For example, Judge Levitz removed the following portion from a statement by Dr. Basu's husband, Biswanath "Steve" Basu: "So I ask why should this man, Rodney Solomon, be allowed to live. He destroyed my family. He took away my wife of 13 years. He left Pam's hopes and dreams of raising our daughter unfinished and unfulfilled."

But Judge Levitz kept parts of Mr. Basu's statment in which he describes how he feels when he travels through the intersection near his Savage home where Solomon and Miller forced Dr. Basu from her BMW.

"I hear the thud of her head hitting the pavement and I can almost hear the life going out of her," Mr. Basu says in the statement.

Meanwhile, defense attorneys are expected to call Solomon's parents, who separated but never divorced when Solomon was 14, to testify on his behalf. A report on Solomon says his criminal record starts at about the same time his parents split.

Jurors will be presented with information about Solomon's criminal record, which includes previous convictions for three robberies and heroin distribution.

A psychiatrist will testify for Solomon about the effects of his heavy use of drugs. One report says Solomon used drugs since he was an adolescent, at one time using as much as five bags of PCP per night.

In other issues, Judge Levitz also declined yesterday to address a request by defense attorneys to rule that Maryland's gas chamber -- used to carry out death sentences -- represents a cruel and unusual punishment.

He explained that it is not relevant for him to consider the motion unless and until the jury sentences Solomon to death.

In Maryland's gas chamber, not used since 1961, defendants die from asphyxiation 10 to 18 minutes after being strapped into a chair and forced to breathe hydrogen cyanide, according to defense filings.

Maryland is the only state in the United States where the gas chamber is the only method of carrying out death sentences.

Miller was sentenced to life in prison after a Howard Circuit Court trial in April.

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