Bashara murder trial set to start this month

By: K. Michelle Moran | Grosse Pointe Times | Published October 2, 2014


Grosse Pointe Park businessman Robert Bashara has always insisted he had nothing to do with the Jan. 24, 2012, murder of his wife, Jane, and now he’ll be making that case to a jury.

Despite 3rd Circuit Court Judge Vonda Evans’ suggestion at a hearing earlier this month that Bashara should consider a “resolution” to the case, it appears that won’t be happening.

“There’s no (plea) offer, judge, and we are going to trial,” said Lillian Diallo, one of the attorneys representing Bashara, during a pretrial hearing Sept. 24.

After a final pretrial hearing at 9 a.m. Oct. 3, Bashara’s trial is slated to start at 9 a.m. Oct. 6.

Evans said prosecutors and defense attorneys will have an hour and a half each for voir dire, although she said she’s no longer planning on using a questionnaire for prospective jurors.

Defense attorneys seem poised to try to demonstrate that former Bashara handyman Joe Gentz murdered Jane Bashara on his own, not at Bashara’s behest. Gentz pleaded guilty to killing Jane Bashara and was sentenced on Dec. 12, 2012, to 17-28 years in prison for second-degree murder, but Gentz has always maintained that he committed the murder because Bashara offered him money and then threatened to kill him if he didn’t go forward with the crime. Bashara has always denied these allegations.

In court, Diallo said the defense intends to show that Gentz is “a weapon on his own without any encouragement.” She said they hope to bring forward witnesses who can attest to Gentz’s alleged “aggressiveness” and “nature of violence against women and children.” She cited one incident from a 2009 police report in which a man in Gentz’s neighborhood said Gentz “picked up (the man’s) minor child by the throat.”

Lisa Lindsey, one of the Wayne County prosecutors on the Bashara case, argued that using police reports going back to 1988 with regard to Gentz wouldn’t be permitted because they go back too far, but Evans disagreed. However, the judge said the court needs to “get it in writing” to see if particular evidence can be admitted or not. Diallo told the court the defense plans to call upon “record-keepers” in police departments in Clinton Township, Roseville and Warren — all cities where she said Gentz “had police contact” and where there are police records of such contact.

Lindsey also criticized the defense attorneys for filing what she said were “at least” four motions after Evans’ deadline, to which Diallo responded, “Sometimes justice doesn’t have a timeline.”

As to whether Bashara is getting any support from his family, Michael McCarthy, one of Bashara’s defense attorneys, declined to comment after court, saying, “I can’t get into that.”

Bashara, 56, is serving six to 20 years in jail for admitting he tried to hire someone to kill Gentz, for which Bashara was sentenced in December 2012. And he could spend the rest of his life in prison if he’s convicted in his wife’s murder. In April 2013, Bashara was charged with first-degree murder, conspiracy to commit first-degree murder, solicitation to commit murder, suborning of perjury during a capital trial, witness intimidation and obstruction of justice. The first charge carries a sentence of mandatory life in prison without parole, while the next three charges carry a possible sentence of life or any number of years in prison. Witness intimidation carries a possible 15-year sentence, and obstruction of justice carries a five-year sentence.

McCarthy said his client is holding up well.

“Mr. Bashara’s spirits are fine,” he said. “He is always upbeat and he is always friendly.”

The prosecutors alone have presented the court with a witness list numbering about 84, and defense attorneys say they’ll be bringing forward additional witnesses. Diallo said she expects the trial to last at least three to four weeks, and some other attorneys have speculated that it could take longer. During the Sept. 24 pretrial hearing, Diallo and McCarthy presented Evans with the list of witnesses they plan to call.

Despite voluminous evidence compiled by prosecutors — said to number in the thousands of pages — defense attorneys expressed confidence as the trial date approaches.

“We will be ready on the sixth for trial, and we will not have our hands tied by the prosecution,” Diallo said.