Despite self-defense claim, judge lets murder charge stand in fatal stabbing of Calvin Lee Jones

Despite testimony that Calvin Lee Jones had bruised Cynthia Sanders during a struggle, struck her in the head with a lamp and continued to come toward her as she brandished a knife and warned him to back off, a Columbus Recorder's Court judge this morning rejected a defense attorney's argument the murder charge filed against Sanders in Jones' fatal stabbing should be dismissed because she acted in self-defense.

Judge Michael Joyner told defense attorney Stacey Jackson that Jones could not speak for himself, and two witnesses testifying on Sanders' behalf were her daughter and her daughter's friend, so they were not unbiased. He found probable cause to let the murder charge stand and send the case on to Superior Court, where a judge could set a bond for Sanders. Joyner by law could not.

Sanders' daughter, Stephanie Smith, had been in a year-long relationship with Jones, and he had been at her house Monday morning drinking Jägermeister, a liqueur, and she suspected he had been using cocaine. He drank at her home for about three hours, starting at 8 a.m., and then followed her and her friend Dianna Walton to a friend's house at 1252 School House Drive, near Kendrick High School in southeast Columbus.

There Jones and Smith began to argue so loudly neighbors could hear them. Smith said Jones threw two beer bottles at her. Witnesses outside the house reported seeing Smith come storming out, pick up a brick and put it down, pick up a bottle and break it, then grab a knife and stab the tires on a vehicle parked outside.

She went back inside and the fight resumed. Then her mother drove up with Smith's little boy, and Jones started arguing with her, witnesses said. That's when the two began to struggle and Jones hit Sanders with a lamp, they said. Sanders retreated to the home's kitchen, got a knife from a drawer and told Jones to stay away from her.

Smith went outside with her child to get the boy away from the fight.

When Jones continued to come toward her, she stabbed him in the chest and then left, driving away with the child. Smith and Walton tried to comfort Jones until an ambulance arrived. Police were summoned about 11:45 a.m. Jones, 33, was pronounced dead at The Medical Center at 12:43 p.m.

Sanders, 50, of Seale, Ala., later turned herself in at police headquarters, a detective said.

Jackson argued this morning that under Georgia law, Sanders had "no duty to retreat" as Jones approached her and had the right to defend herself. He asked that Joyner either dismiss the murder charge or reduce it to voluntary manslaughter and set a bond of $5,000.

Joyner said he could not do that, as the evidence showed Jones died by violent means and Recorder's Court holds preliminary hearings simply to determine "probable cause" that a crime was committed. He found probable cause, under the circumstances. Prosecutors could decide to reduce the charge, and a Superior Court judge could set a bond for Sanders, but he could not, Joyner said.

After this morning's hearing, Jackson told reporters that Smith's home burned just a day or two after Jones' stabbing death, and authorities suspect arson. He could not say whether the fire was connected to Jones' stabbing.