State’s top court grants evidentiary hearing for convicted murderer seeking early release

Anthony Sanders, 32, is behind bars for life for the 2007 murder of a mother and her son and daughter at the Archdale apartment complex off Dorchester Road.

The state Supreme Court granted an evidentiary hearing last week for a convicted murderer who argued ineffective counsel led him to accept a deal forgoing any attempt at release from prison on a life sentence.

A bench trial in Dorchester County ended in a guilty verdict in March 2010 against Anthony Sanders, now 32, on charges that he gunned down Diane R. Grant, 44; her son, Jatavious DeVore, 20; and her daughter, DeAnna DeVore, 14, at Archdale Forest Apartments off Dorchester Road.

Grant and Jatavious DeVore were found dead in their apartment’s entryway having suffered single gunshot wounds to their heads in July 2007, according to court documents detailing the Supreme Court’s opinion. Deanna DeVore was found nearby, nude from the waist down, with multiple gunshot wounds.

Authorities at the time conceded that details surrounding the shooting were few. There were no eyewitnesses and the gun was never found. A motive and Sanders’ relationship to the victims also were not known.

Bullet casings found at the apartment matched those of two other crime scenes, linking Sanders to the shooting, authorities said.

Prosecutors with the 1st Circuit Solicitor’s Office had agreed to take the death penalty off the table in exchange for Sander’s decision to forgo a jury trial and any appeal after the case was disposed, the court documents stated. Sanders engaged in a lengthy dialogue with his attorney and the lower-level trial court before the deal was accepted, the documents said.

“The court explained to Sanders he was giving up the right to have another court review its decision, and Sanders acknowledged he understood. ... Ultimately, the trial court accepted the agreement, finding Sanders had freely and voluntarily entered into it,” the documents stated.

Sanders, now five years into his sentence at Broad River Correctional Institution, applied in recent years for post-conviction relief saying his attorney “misadvised him with misleading statements” and failed to investigate potential witnesses, the documents said. Sanders asked for an evidentiary hearing to further discuss the issue — a request the lower-level court dismissed given Sanders’ earlier agreement, the documents stated.

The state Supreme Court, however, determined the court erred in that decision.

Although a defendant may waive his right to review, the court said, “he is nevertheless still entitled to challenge whether the advice he received in agreeing to that waiver was constitutionally defective.”

A date for that hearing has not yet been set.

Reach Christina Elmore at 937-5908 or at Twitter.com/celmorePC.