Minnesota appeals court upholds Dennis-Bond conviction

Pierce County Journal newsroom
Posted 5/8/24

The Minnesota Court of Appeals upheld the murder conviction against Camille Dennis-Bond for the deaths of Dalton Lee Ford and Tayler Nicole Garza, announced Dakota County Attorney Kathy …

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Minnesota appeals court upholds Dennis-Bond conviction


The Minnesota Court of Appeals upheld the murder conviction against Camille Dennis-Bond for the deaths of Dalton Lee Ford and Tayler Nicole Garza, announced Dakota County Attorney Kathy Keena. Ford and Garza were 2017 Prescott High School graduates.

In December 2022, a Dakota County jury convicted Dennis-Bond, now 22 years old, of two counts of murder in the third-degree, two counts of criminal vehicular homicide (gross negligence), criminal vehicular operation resulting in great bodily harm (gross negligence) and careless driving. Dennis-Bond was sentenced on March 24, 2023, to 15 years in prison by Dakota County District Judge Tim Wermager. 

Dennis-Bond appealed the conviction on the basis that it was discrimination to not choose one prospective juror, because evidence at trial was insufficient and because the district court “abused its discretion” by denying her motion for a more lenient sentence. A three-judge Appeals Court panel heard oral arguments in the case Feb. 8, and affirmed the conviction in a decision released Monday, April 29.

According to court documents, Dennis-Bond was racing against a car driven by her brother, Leon Bond, whose car reached 114 mph and hit a Honda CRV, occupied by 22-year-old Ford, and passenger, 22-year-old Garza. Both were pronounced dead at the scene. The collision happened April 4, 2021 on Dakota County Road 42 near Newton Avenue where the speed limit in the area is 50 mph.

Dennis-Bond remains in custody with the Minnesota Department of Corrections with an anticipated release date of Dec. 6, 2032. ​Leon Bond was convicted of homicide charges in juvenile court and has since been released from custody.

According to the Appeals Court decision, Dennis-Bond argued that “Prospective Juror 7” shouldn’t have been stricken by prosecutors.

“During jury selection, the state used a peremptory stroke on Prospective Juror 7, who is a person of color. Dennis-Bond challenged the state’s peremptory strike, arguing that the strike was based solely on the prospective juror’s race,” the court decision states.

Prosecutors said Prospective Juror 7 was stricken from service because of his description of his involvement in a car accident. He admitted he had rear-ended a student driver who stopped abruptly at a yellow traffic signal.

“Prospective Juror 7 maintained that he was not ‘100 percent at fault’ and that the student driver probably should have proceeded through the yellow light instead of ‘slamming the brake right away,’” the decision states.

“The prosecutor told the district court that the state believed it would be inappropriate to seat Prospective Juror 7 in a case that involved comparing the fault of driver involved in an accident. The district court concluded that the state’s proffered reason was nondiscriminatory. We agree,” the decision states.

On Dennis-Bond’s appeal based on lack of evidence, the court ruled, “The evidence was sufficient for a jury to conclude beyond a reasonable doubt that Dennis-Bond was a proximate cause of the victims’ deaths and injuries.”

The judge’s note that Dennis-Bond and her brother had spoken through open car windows at a traffic light and decided to see which could go faster, a witness in Dennis-Bond’s car told investigators.

“The evidence, viewed in the light most favorable to the verdict, demonstrates that Dennis-Bond and L.B. (Leon Bond) were not acting independently of each other. The evidence indicates that the racing was initiated by Dennis-Bond’s banter with L.B. and her rapid acceleration at the stoplight, and that Dennis-Bond continued to play an active role in the racing by jockeying for position with L.B. The evidence also shows that the two were racing at ‘horrific’ speeds and entered the intersection where the collision occurred nearly simultaneously. The mere fact that Dennis-Bond avoided the collision does not diminish her active participation in the racing prior to the collision,” according to the Appeals Court decision.

The court also upheld the district court decision not to depart from sentencing guidelines. Dennis-Bond had sought probation and a stay of the prison sentences because she was 19 years old at the time of the accident and had plans of joining the National Guard, attending college and attending law school. She also stated she had no prior adult criminal history, had strong family and community support and “regrets speeding, yelling at the Honda CRV, the lives lost, and most importantly, realizes she must make better decisions,” the ruling states.

The district court noted that Dennis-Bond was cited twice for speeding while out on bond awaiting trial.

“This is not the rare case that warrants reversal,” the Appeals Court stated.

Camille Dennis-Bond, Minnesota Court of Appeals, third degree murder, Tayler Garza, Dalton Ford, Prescott alums, Burnsville, Minnesota