A jury of six men and six women was selected yesterday in the trial of a Wheaton business man accused of solicitation to commit murder and attempted murder of an Internal Revenue Service auditor.
Douglas Lornell Sanders, 43, the proprietor of two trucking concerns in Montgomery and Prince George's counties, is accused of trying to hire an old friend, Robert Lee Smithson, to kill IRS agent W. Stewart Connard.
In opening testimony before Montgomery Circuit Court Judge Richard B. Latham, Smithson, the state's star witness, said Sanders approached him last March 6 and told him that Connard was conducting a criminal audit on Sanders' records that could bring Sanders up to nine years in jail if completed.
Smithson testified that Sanders asked him to kill Connard, and that he initially agreed to participate in a murder plot. But Smithson said that just before he went on a shoplifting spree with a drinking buddy last March 18, he told Sanders he wanted out. When Montgomery County police arrested Smithson that day for shoplifting at an Aspen Hill supermarket, Smithson told detectives, and subsequently IRS investigators, of the plot. Smithson added that when he backed out, Sanders told him he would carry out the murder himself.
Assistant state's attorney Michael Mason told the jurors they will be hear taped conversations between Sanders and Smithson. Mason said that after Smithson's arrest for shoplifting, Smithson agreed to a request by federal investigators to wear a body mike when he met with Sanders on March 19 and told him he was willing to go ahead with the murder after all. In that meeting, the prosecutor said, Sanders gave Smithson a gun and six bullets, and the address, description, and license tag number of Connard.
Defense attorney Louis Fireison sought to cast doubt on Smithson's credibility. Fireison emphazised Smithson's long criminal record (Smithson testified that he has spent 20 of his 38 years in jails and reformatories) and suggested that Smithson had cooked up the murder-plot story to get out of his arrest for stealing steaks from a series of supermarkets.