ROCKVILLE – A county circuit court judge during a pretrial hearing ruled to grant a defense attorney’s motion to postpone the trial of three co-defendants indicted on murder charges to fix a scheduling issue.
Circuit Court Judge Harry C. Storm ruled that the trial for three co-defendants charged with the deaths of two college athletes native to the county be postponed. Defense Attorney Michael Lawlor, who is representing Andy K. Panton, 20, of Boyds, requested the postponement because he had a preexisting trial scheduled for around the same time, and he had joined the double-murder case only in the past few weeks.
Earlier this year, grand juries indicted defendants Panton, then-18-year-old Noah Foster Barnett of Silver Spring and Dontaye Jamahl Hunt, then 18, also of Silver Spring, on two counts of murder in the deaths of 23-year-old Jordan Alexander Radway of Laurel and Christian Deon Roberts, 24, of Silver Spring, who died Jan. 28 in White Oak.
The three men also face two counts of use of a firearm to commit a violent crime and one count of armed robbery and of conspiracy to commit armed robbery.
Montgomery County Police (MCP) wrote in charging documents that Roberts and Radway – former star basketball players who graduated from Paint Branch High School – died in a drug deal gone wrong. A transaction had been planned between (Barnett) and Roberts.
MCP found Radway and Roberts deceased in a car that had crashed into a few parked vehicles, noting that the two men had been suffering from gunshot wounds. They found no marijuana in the car, suggesting a transaction had occurred. However, they also did not find cash, which would later lead police to conclude the former basketball standouts had been robbed.
The office of the Chief Medical Examiner ruled that the victims of the then-homicide died from multiple gunshot wounds. MCP later upgraded the investigation from a double-homicide to a double-murder.
The 10-day trial was scheduled to occur in less than two months, on Sept. 23.
As a result, Circuit Court Judge Sharon Burrell, standing in for Administrative Judge Robert Greenburg, ruled on Aug. 2 that the trial be rescheduled for January 21, 2020, the earliest date for which Storm, prosecutor Jessica Hall and the four defense attorneys were available for 10 consecutive business days. The new date means that Hunt, Barnett and Panton will wait in jail another four months before their trial will begin; the date of the new trial will mark nearly one year since Radway and Roberts lost their lives to gunfire.
Lawlor’s motion was not met with unanimous approval, however. Attorneys Patrick Galasso and Maura Lynch, co-counsels representing Barnett, said they opposed the motion to postpone the trial because it was not in favor of a speedy trial for their client.
Storm on Aug. 2 also ruled on a motion filed by defense attorney Bernard Grimm, who is representing Hunt in the case.
A couple of weeks before the pretrial hearing, Grimm requested that Storm sever his client’s case from those of Barnett and Panton.
“I understand the concept of judicial economy,” or efficiency of court operations, given the fact that the case has three defendants, Grimm said.
Grimm said Storm understood the severity of the charges made against the three defendants. “(We have) no forensic evidence he (Hunt) was a shooter,” Grimm said in court.
Grimm said he was concerned that having his client’s case joined with Barnett and Panton’s cases could put ideas into the minds of the jury as to whether Hunt is guilty.
Storm asked questions but did not immediately give a “yes” or “no” to Grimm.
“Wouldn’t most of the evidence be the same for all three (defendants)?” Storm asked Grimm.
Grimm said he would not be able to cross-examine Panton and Barnett if the cases were joined.
Then, Hall spoke.
“Mr. Barnett didn’t really make any statements to police inculcation of himself or (anyone else),” said Hall. She said the same for Panton.
Storm did not believe Grimm’s arguments were convincing.
“I don’t believe I am satisfied with (your) evidence,” Storm said to Grimm. Storm said that after he considered what Hall had said, he declined Grimm’s motion, although he would allow Grimm to file a motion to sever again, once the trial began.
“I have no reaction to – at this juncture because the court permitted me to reopen and revisit this issue, should it arise during trial,” said Grimm after the hearing, on Storm denying his motion to sever Hunt’s case.
After the hearing, when asked about Stone’s granting his motion to postpone the trial, Lawlor said he had no comment. Galasso also said he had no comment.
The Aug. 2 hearing was the rescheduled date after Lawlor orally motioned for postponement of the hearing from July 25 so he would have more time to review evidence entered by the state. Lawlor had taken on the case a few weeks before the original pretrial date and said he wanted time to properly review the state’s evidence to represent his client in the case.