Jury selection to begin today in murder trial

Repeat offender accused in fatal shooting Jan. 25

Fourth court date since summer

Defendant in prison for armed robbery

Columbia

October 28, 2002|By Lisa Goldberg | Lisa Goldberg,SUN STAFF

The high-profile murder trial of Tavon Donya Sands, a Columbia man accused of committing a spate of crimes over an eight-month period while on probation, is scheduled to begin this morning with the questioning of about 100 potential jurors.

The trial, which is expected to last a week, will be the fourth in Howard County for the 21-year-old man since summer and will be the one that will expose him to the greatest potential penalty if convicted - life in prison without the possibility of parole.

It is also the one expected to generate the most interest. After his arrest in the fatal shooting Jan. 25 of 23-year-old computer student DeShawn Anthony Wallace, police officials noted Sands' multiple arrests and said his continual release to the streets pointed to a failure of the criminal justice system.

Sands, who had been repeatedly released on bond after arrests on drug, gun and armed robbery charges last year, has been jailed without bond since police charged him with murder Jan 29.

Deputy State's Attorney I. Matthew Campbell declined to comment when contacted about the murder case last week, as did the Columbia man's defense attorney, Joseph Murtha.

Sands had been released on a $50,000 bond in an armed robbery case for a few days in January when - police allege in charging documents- he shot Wallace during a botched robbery in the 5800 block of Stevens Forest Road.

He and two other men are accused of approaching Wallace, his brother and three friends, and ordering them to the ground, according to charging documents.

The other four complied, but Wallace walked away and was shot in the head, according to the documents.

Sands was arrested within days.

The other two men, Jonas L. Askins and Robert L. Burgess, both 18, were arrested in May after confidential informants and the mother of one of Sands' children identified them, according to previous court testimony.

At the time of the killing, Sands was facing charges in three Howard County cases alleging gun and drug possession and armed robbery.

Prosecutors also were preparing to take an attempted murder case before a Howard County grand jury.

After each arrest, court commissioners set bonds ranging from $10,000 to $50,000. Sands posted more than $100,000 in bonds.

He is serving a 20-year sentence in the armed robbery case and has been convicted of, but not sentenced for, drug and gun charges. He was acquitted of a gun charge in a separate case. The attempted murder charges are pending.

While a probation agent sent Howard Circuit Judge James B. Dudley, who was overseeing Sands' previous conviction for misdemeanor assault, notices of the arrests, the agent did not request that Dudley issue a probation violation warrant.

A violation warrant was issued Aug. 22 - after the agent sent Dudley notice that Sands' had been convicted of armed robbery in June.

Sands' violation hearing has been scheduled for Dec. 19.

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