Court upholds death penalty in 1995 robbery and killing Wheaton man claimed errors by trial judge

January 21, 1998|By Andrea F. Siegel | Andrea F. Siegel,SUN STAFF

A divided Court of Appeals upheld yesterday the death sentence of Jean Alex Clermont, convicted by a Prince George's County jury of the Sept. 19, 1995, killing and robbery of a Laurel man found fatally shot in the trunk of his newly leased BMW.

The state's highest court rejected Clermont's claims that the death penalty is unconstitutional and that Circuit Court Judge William B. Spellbring Jr. made numerous errors that affected the outcome of the October 1996 trial and sentencing.

Michael R. Braudes, Clermont's lawyer, vowed to appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Chief Judge Robert M. Bell was the only dissenter. He said Clermont should receive a new trial because the judge cut short cross-examination of the motives of the prosecution's star witness. The witness was an accomplice who told police Clermont pulled the trigger after a detective told him that Clermont had named him as the shooter.

Bell also wrote that Clermont should have been allowed to have the last word to the jury during the sentencing hearing. The judge gave it to prosecutors.

Clermont, then 23, of Wheaton, and three friends from Silver Spring were convicted of killing John E. McMullen III, 28, of the 3400 block of Lindenwood Drive in Russett Green in the western corner of Anne Arundel County.

According to court documents, the four friends had spotted McMullen's BMW in downtown Washington as he waited for his girlfriend to get out of work. They followed the car to McMullen's apartment complex, planning to rob him and steal the car.

In the parking lot, they got $19 from McMullen and forced him into the trunk of his car while they left his girlfriend behind. She called police.

The four stopped at a recreation center in Prince George's County, where Clermont planned to ask McMullen for the PIN numbers of his credit and bank cards. But when McMullen didn't move quickly enough, Clermont shot him through the trunk lid, Rawle White, one of the accomplices testified during the trial.

Pub Date: 1/21/98

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