Murder verdict prompts outburst

Published 12:00 am Sunday, August 25, 2002

Tensions spilled out of the courtroom and into the streets of Selma Friday following the conviction of Jonathan Witherspoon.

Witherspoon, 31, was convicted of

the murder of Prince Tolbert last May outside a Selma nightclub.

Jurors deliberated for 50 minutes before unanimously agreeing that Witherspoon did kill Tolbert outside Club 49 last year. He was charged with murder with extreme indifference to human life.

This was the second time Witherspoon was tried in the case. The first trial ended in a hung jury.

Following the verdict, friends and relatives of Tolbert formed a caravan of cars and drove through downtown Selma, honking their horns. They then drove to East Selma, where LaMarcus Sanders, an associate of Witherspoon’s, was hanging out with friends a few houses down from where his grandmother lives.

According to Sanders’ grandmother, Ann Sanders, a confrontation between those people in the cars and her grandson ensued. The people in the cars drove around the residential area &uot;pointing, hollering and shouting like they had just came from a wedding,&uot; Ann Sanders said. She said she was told that someone threw a brick at her grandson, but that he was not hit.

Lt. Gary Vancil of the Selma Police Department confirmed that a &uot;big disturbance&uot; did in fact occur in that area, but declined to give specific details.

As of Friday, Witherspoon is now a three-time convicted felon.

In 1991 in Florida’s Orange County he was convicted of a felony charge for the battery of a law enforcement officer and a misdemeanor charge of resisting an officer. The next year, Witherspoon received a felony conviction for the distribution of cocaine, also in Orange County.

In Alabama, Witherspoon added to that list of convictions two charges for the unlawful possession of a controlled substance.

A motion to revoke Witherspoon’s bond was rejected by Judge Tommy Jones. A motion for a pre-sentencing investigation was approved.

Prince Tolbert’s mother, Velma, said of Witherspoon’s conviction, &uot;This is

rejoiceful time, but I hope no other mother has to go through what I have.&uot;