A second suspect in last week's slaying of James S. "Jay" Bias surrendered to Prince George's County police yesterday and was charged with first-degree murder, authorities said. Meanwhile, the alleged gunman in the killing, Jerry S. Tyler, remained jailed in Upper Marlboro, waiting for family members to secure his release on bond.
The suspect arrested yesterday, Gerald W. Eiland, 20, of Southeast Washington, is accused of driving the Mercedes-Benz from which Tyler allegedly fired the shots that killed Bias last Tuesday. Police said Eiland, accompanied by his lawyer, surrendered to homicide detectives about 11:30 a.m. after learning over the weekend that a warrant had been issued for his arrest.
Bias, 20, a younger brother of the late University of Maryland basketball star Len Bias, died less than two hours after being shot outside Prince George's Plaza near Hyattsville. The slaying, which police said resulted from an argument in the mall, has produced a wave of public anger over street violence in the Washington area, including anguished calls by Bias's father and friends for stricter control on handguns.
Bias's family and others have channeled much of their anger into criticism of District Court Judge Sylvania Woods, who on Thursday made Tyler eligible for release on bail. Woods's ruling prompted a flood of calls to radio talk shows and politicians' offices, and sparked a courthouse demonstration yesterday by members of the Guardian Angels, a self-styled crime-fighting group.
Yet judges, lawyers and bail bond providers said yesterday that the setting of bail for a first-degree murder defendant is not uncommon in Prince George's or elsewhere. Of the 44 prisoners being held on first-degree murder charges in the county jail, 24 have been denied bail, according to the Department of Corrections. The other 20, for whom bail has been set, would be free to leave if they were able to post it.
"The public does not understand the fundamental rules by which the courts operate," said one judge, who asked not to be identified. "They have this knee-jerk reaction. They don't consider the fact that the guy is innocent until proven guilty. Their reaction is, the guy did it and he ought to go to jail for the rest of his life. They're not concerned about the process."
The Rev. Perry Smith III, pastor of First Baptist Church of North Brentwood, leading yesterday's demonstration, called the court system "insensitive."
"We think they need to be much more sensitive to the community and more protective of those who are victimized," he said.
In setting the bond, Woods said Tyler could leave home only under certain conditions and placed him under an electronic monitoring program.
Eiland, the second suspect, was jailed pending a District Court bond hearing today or tomorrow.
Tyler, 24, of Temple Hills, allegedly opened fire with a semiautomatic pistol on a Toyota 4Runner carrying Jay Bias and two friends. Bias, a former school basketball star, was pronounced dead in the same Leland Memorial Hospital emergency room where his brother died of cocaine ingestion in 1986.
Police said Tyler and Bias had argued in the mall, with Tyler accusing Bias of flirting with his wife, a jewelry store clerk.
Although the setting of bail for Tyler generated criticism, Tyler's attorney, Victor Houlon, said Woods "did the courageous and right thing."
Maryland law requires judges to set bail for all defendants except those charged with crimes punishable by death or life in prison, such as first-degree murder. In those cases, judges can deny bail.
Court rules list nearly 20 factors that judges must consider before making a ruling. Houlon argued last Thursday, and Woods agreed, that many of the factors weigh in Tyler's favor. He has lived in Prince George's all his life, for example, and has strong ties to the community, including a large family. He has never been convicted of a crime, Houlon said, and the only time he missed a court date was on a traffic charge.
Houlon, who said Tyler's family intends to pledge $50,000 worth of real estate as his bond, also told Woods that the Bias killing appeared to have been done in a fit of rage. He argued that those who commit such crimes rarely repeat them, and represent little danger to the public.