Why is 17-year-old Bernard Eric Miller of Washington charged with first-degree murder?
His attorney, Laurack Bray, went searching for an answer in Howard Circuit Court yesterday.
But Judge Dennis Sweeney denied Mr. Bray's request that prosecutors show why they brought the murder charge against his client in the carjacking death of Savage resident Pam Basu.
"The state has refused to provide those facts," Mr. Bray told the judge. "At this particular point, we can't form a defense."
Assistant State's Attorney Joseph Murtha, a prosecutor handling the carjacking case, said his office has provided Mr. Bray with all the information he needs to defend the Miller youth, and Judge Sweeney agreed.
"The state has provided adequate information for the defense to prepare its case," Mr. Murtha said. "We will not introduce evidence to surprise the defendant."
The judge said the information that has been given to Mr. Bray "meets the criteria of the law."
Prosecutors have given the defense attorney numerous police reports, statements by victims and witnesses, and tapes of police interviews with the Miller youth and co-defendant Rodney Eugene Soloman, Mr. Murtha said.
The prosecutor said he cannot offer more details about the case without going into the "dangerous territory" of exposing the state's theories on what led to the carjacking.
He said the prosecution can charge the Miller youth with first-degree murder because the homicide occurred in the commission of another felony crime -- robbery.
The Miller youth and Mr. Soloman, 26, of Washington, are charged with first-degree murder, robbery and 17 other counts in the death of Dr. Basu, a chemist at W.R. Grace Co. in Columbia. The defendants are scheduled for trials on Feb. 22.
Mr. Soloman's attorney, Chief Public Defender Carol Hanson, did not participate in yesterday's hearing.
Dr. Basu was dragged to her death after two men forced her from her car on Sept. 8 and then drove off with Dr. Basu entangled in a seat belt.
A police report filed in Circuit Court says Mr. Soloman was driving the car and the Miller youth was a passenger.
If convicted, the Miller youth faces a maximum sentence of life in prison without parole.
The prosecution cannot seek the death penalty against him because he is a juvenile, although he is being charged as an adult.
Prosecutors are seeking a life sentence without parole for Mr. Soloman. The state could seek the death penalty against him.