A Prince George's County judge cleared the way yesterday for the release on bond of Jerry S. Tyler, charged with murder in Tuesday's slaying of James "Jay" Bias, after his attorney said Tyler suffers from a life-threatening illness and needs treatment that he would not be able to get in jail.
Tyler, 24, allegedly shot and killed Bias outside a Hyattsville shopping mall after accusing Bias of flirting with his wife. District Court Judge Sylvania Woods set bond at $50,000, over the objection of a prosecutor, after defense attorney Victor Houlon told the judge that Tyler suffers from a disease called scleroderma.
"With treatment, his prognosis is not good," Houlon said. "Without treatment, his prognosis is absolutely fatal."
He also argued that his client is "not a danger to others," comes from a stable family, has strong ties to Prince George's, including a wife and infant child, and is not likely to flee before his trial.
James Bias, Jay Bias's father, said he was angered by the judge's action.
Speaking to the news media on his front lawn in Landover yesterday evening, he said, "I can't understand it. This man is a coldblooded killer. He calculated and he followed an unarmed man into a vehicle with three people in it . . . . How far does it have to go? How many have to be killed before we can get them to protect us?"
James Bias said he plans to respond to his son's death by working to limit the sale of weapons. "This is something I've been feeling for years but have not acted on it," he said. "I feel grief, but I feel if I don't act now, your child and your child could be next."
Assistant State's Attorney Mark Foley asked Woods to order Tyler held without bond. In denying the request, the judge said he agreed with Houlon that the Bias shooting appeared to have been carried out in a fit of rage, and that those who commit such crimes seldom repeat them.
Woods, who also cited Tyler's reported medical condition in setting bond, ordered him to remain in his parents' Temple Hills home under an electronic monitoring program.
He will be allowed to leave only to go to work, attend school, get medical treatment or visit his attorney's office.
Houlon told Woods that Tyler's family will be able to post $50,000 bond, although the family had not done so by 10 last night, meaning that the earliest Tyler could be released is this morning.
Bias, 20, who was killed near Prince George's Plaza, was a younger brother of University of Maryland basketball star Len Bias, whose cocaine-induced death in 1986 rocked collegiate athletics. Tyler allegedly opened fire with a semiautomatic pistol on a Toyota 4Runner carrying Bias and two friends.
Minutes earlier, according to investigators, Tyler and Bias, who apparently did not know each other, had argued in the mall, with Tyler accusing Bias of flirting with his wife, a jewelry store clerk.
Bias had tried to avoid a confrontation, according to a friend who was with him.
Police said yesterday they were trying to determine the identity of a second suspect in the shooting, a man who was driving a green Mercedes-Benz from which Tyler allegedly fired the shots.
The car, impounded by police late Tuesday, is registered to Tyler's father, Oscar Tyler Jr., 57, according to Maryland motor vehicle records.
In arguing in court for Tyler's release on bond, Houlon described his client's illness as a type of cancer.
He told Judge Woods that Tyler would have to continue undergoing chemotherapy if he is to survive.
Harrison's Principals of Internal Medicine, a widely used medical textbook, describes scleroderma as an illness resulting from a dysfunctioning of the body's autoimmune system, not a form of cancer.
Dorland's Medical Dictionary defines the disease as a "chronic hardening and shrinking of the connective tissue of any part of the body, including the skin, heart, esophagus, kidney and lung."
The disease is rare, striking about 14 in every 1 million people, according to some studies.
Judy Frank, a spokeswoman for the United Scleroderma Foundation in Watsonville, Calif., said "only a very small percentage" of victims die, while "the large majority of patients go on to live normal lives."
She said the frequency of treatment -- which does not include chemotherapy -- depends on the extent of the illness.
Houlon, however, told reporters after the bond hearing that "from what I've been told," Tyler needs to undergo "constant chemotherapy and radiation treatments just to stay alive." He declined to identify his client's physician or say where Tyler has been receiving treatment.