Basu carjacker given life term with no parole Solomon's crime called 'outrageous and inhumane'

August 19, 1993|By Alan J. Craver | Alan J. Craver,Staff Writer

Rodney Eugene Solomon won't face the death penalty, but will spend the rest of his life in prison for the murder of Pam Basu, a crime that prompted tougher state and federal laws against carjacking.

A Baltimore County Circuit Court jury, which convicted Solomon of first-degree murder last week, deliberated about 8 1/2 hours before sentencing Solomon to life in prison without parole.

"The crime in this case was outrageous and inhumane," Judge Dana Mark Levitz said while announcing the sentence. "It's because of that these sentences are imposed."

Judge Levitz sentenced Solomon, 27, of Washington, to an additional 80 years in prison for a half-dozen other charges for the Sept. 8, 1992, carjacking death of Dr. Basu and two attempted carjackings.

As jury foreman Richard Evans announced the verdict at 9:30 p.m., he listed factors that influenced the jury, including Solomon's low IQ, learning disability and lack of intent to murder Dr. Basu.

Dr. Basu, a 34-year-old research scientist, was dragged nearly two miles to her death after Solomon and Bernard Eric Miller forced her from her 1990 BMW near her Savage home.

As the sentence was announced, members of the Solomon family wept and clasped hands. Meanwhile, friends and relatives of Dr. Basu sat quietly in their courtroom bench.

Theresa Solomon, Solomon's aunt, said that the trial showed many problems about her nephew that the family was not aware of before. "This tragedy brought out there is a problem," Ms. Solomon, flanked by her family, said after the sentence was announced. "Maybe he can get some help."

Nita Seelinger, Dr. Basu's sister, spoke for the Basu family after the verdict was announced as her parents stood behind her. She thanked prosecutors, police and the public for their support during the case.

"To the American public, who has shown compassion to us in many different ways, we offer our sincere gratitude," Ms. Seelinger said.

She said that family members will struggle to carry on with their lives, and will focus their energy on Dr. Basu's young daughter, Sarina.

"For us, our loss of Pam is permanent," Ms. Seelinger said, "and our lives will never be the same."

Solomon's attorneys, Public Defenders Carol Hanson and Samuel Truette, called the sentence appropriate. They pointed to Solomon's psychological condition as a key factor that swayed the jury.

"We really don't see it as a win or a loss," Ms. Hanson said. "It is the best we could have hoped for."

Senior Assistant State's Attorney Michael Rexroad said that he is disappointed that the jury did not issue the death penalty for Solomon. He said, however, that he is pleased to know that Solomon will never walk the streets again. "Justice was done here," Mr. Rexroad said. "We are gratified by that."

To sentence Solomon, the jurors were given a form that listed questions for them to answer to decide whether the death penalty or life in prison was more appropriate.

The jury first had to decide whether Solomon was the principal actor during the carjacking. The jury then had to determine if the circumstances surrounding Dr. Basu's murder outweighed factors about Solomon. The jurors had to consider among other factors whether Solomon was the sole cause of Dr. Basu's death, if he had the mental capacity to understand his actions and whether he would pose a future threat to society.

In closing arguments, Mr. Rexroad said that Solomon did nothing to help Dr. Basu as she was dragged alongside the driver's side of the car. "Did he stop? Did he respond to her screams? Did he do anything?" Mr. Rexroad questioned. "No. He continued dragging her."

But Ms. Hanson urged the jurors to look at statements from Miller and Solomon, both of whom had told police that Miller was the driver, to determine who was the principal actor of the slaying.

Mr. Rexroad countered the findings of a clinical psychologist who testified for the defense that Solomon has the emotional capacity of an adolescent. He described as "psychobabble" the psychologist's findings that Solomon suffers from learning disabilities, brain damage and post-traumatic stress syndrome.

The psychologist described Solomon as reckless and psychotic. means that Rodney Solomon has a criminal personality," Mr. Rexroad said. "He's a criminal. He's anti-social. He's psychopathic. He's dangerous."

But Ms. Hanson said that the psychologist's testimony can't be so easily dismissed. She noted that the doctor found that Solomon lacks judgment and has an IQ of 75. She described Solomon as "feeble-minded."

"We're not telling you he's crazy," Ms. Hanson said. "It's not an excuse. It's not a justification. He's borderline functioning."

The defense attorney asked to jury to consider that Solomon and Miller never intended to kill Dr. Basu, only to steal her 1990 BMW sedan. She noted that they carried no weapons.

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