Solomon pleads for compassion Basu family's statements read HOWARD COUNTY

August 18, 1993|By Alan J. Craver | Alan J. Craver,Staff Writer

Pleading for mercy and compassion, Rodney Eugene Solomon urged a jury yesterday to spare him the death penalty for his role in the carjacking murder of Howard County research scientist Pam Basu.

Solomon, convicted of first-degree murder last week, said he never intended to kill Dr. Basu, who was forced from her car near her Savage home, then dragged nearly two miles to her death on Sept. 8, 1992, after her arm became entangled in a seat belt harness.

Solomon, 27, of Washington, made his statement before a Baltimore County Circuit Court jury that must decide today whether to sentence him to die in Maryland's gas chamber or send him to prison for the rest of his life.

"First and foremost, I give my regrets to the Basu family for it has been a hurting thing for them," said Solomon, speaking from a podium about 10 feet in front of the jury box.

"I am hurting deeply, from the bottom of my heart," Solomon said in a firm and clear voice. "This incident was clearly an accident. It was not intentionally done."

As Solomon gave his statement, which lasted about four minutes, his relatives and friends quietly sobbed from a bench in the courtroom.

The jury of nine women and three men also were presented with statements written by Dr. Basu's husband, parents and sister, explaining how her slaying has affected them.

Several jurors, as well as members of the Solomon family, wept as the emotional statements were read by Senior Assistant State's Attorney Michael Rexroad. The Basu family was not present in the Towson courtroom yesterday.

"I often wonder if God had fallen asleep allowing this to happen or was it God's wish to take a loving, gentle soul away from this world, a mother from her child, a wife from her husband, a sister, a daughter and a friend so violently, so painfully," Dr. Basu's husband, Biswanath "Steve" Basu, wrote in his statement.

Meanwhile, defense attorneys played a recording of a statement Solomon gave to police after his arrest. In the statement, Solomon repeatedly blamed his co-defendant, 17-year-old Bernard Eric Miller, for the slaying of Dr. Basu.

In the statement, Solomon said it was Miller's idea to steal Dr. Basu's BMW, that Miller pulled Dr. Basu from the car, and that Miller was driving the car as the woman's body was being dragged. His statement contradicts parts of Miller's statements to police. Miller is serving a life sentence after his murder conviction by a Howard County Circuit Court jury in April.

In the recorded statement Solomon offered to provide police with information on other crimes in exchange for help on this case. He also threatened to commit suicide.

Defense attorneys also presented evidence of Solomon's difficult childhood and psychological condition from his sister, brother, mother and a specialist who examined him twice after his arrest.

Dr. Lawrence Donner, a clinical psychologist from Baltimore, testified that Solomon suffers from a personality disorder and post-traumatic stress syndrome brought on by his upbringing in a home of alcohol abuse and violence.

The doctor used words like rebellious, hedonistic and reckless to describe Solomon, who he said has the psychological functions of a 10- or 11-year-old.

"His judgment is grossly impaired," Dr. Donner said. "He doesn't do anything in terms of thinking. He tends to leap before he looks."

Dr. Donner said his tests revealed that Solomon suffers from a learning disability and brain damage, possibly caused when he was dropped as a child and struck his head on a table.

Solomon, who left high school in the 11th grade and later received an equivalency diploma, has an IQ of 75, Dr. Donner said. A person with an IQ of 69 is classified as retarded.

Barbara Solomon, the defendant's mother, urged the jury to punish her son with life in prison -- and spare him from the death penalty -- during emotional testimony.

Ms. Solomon, saying it would be wrong to take a life for a life, said she would feel the way the Basu family feels if her son is executed.

"I would be hurting," she said. "That's my blood. That's my son."

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