Gang enforcer won’t face death penalty

An enforcer for a violent D.C. drug ring who was convicted in four murders will not face the death penalty, a federal jury ruled yesterday.

Jurors found prosecutors did not prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Larry Gooch, 27, killed two of his victims in the same criminal episode, a requirement for seeking capital punishment in the case.

Defense attorneys said the government couldn’t prove Gooch killed Calvin Cooper and his girlfriend, Yolanda Miller, in 2003 at the same time because police didn’t discover her body until a day after finding Mr. Cooper.

Prosecutors said Gooch killed the pair owing to suspicion they were stealing drugs or cooperating with investigators looking into the activities of the M Street Crew.

“We appreciate the jury’s consideration and deliberation on this important issue, not to mention the entire case as a whole, and we respect its decision,” said Jeffrey A. Taylor, U.S. attorney for the District.

“The defendant is a very dangerous individual. He will now serve the rest of his life in prison, which is a significant and positive result for the prosecution and our city,” he said.

Defense attorney Jensen Barber said yesterday he wasn’t sure whether an appeal would be filed. He questioned bringing the death penalty against Gooch.

“My belief is that the death penalty should be reserved for the worst of the worst, and I don’t believe it was called for here,” he said.

The jury’s decision ends Gooch’s long-running trial, which was just the third capital-murder case tried in the District since reinstatement of the death penalty more than 30 years ago.

Capital punishment is banned by D.C. law. But city residents can still get the death penalty if prosecuted in federal court.In both other cases, juries gave the defendants life in prison without parole.

In 2003, a federal jury deadlocked on whether to recommend the death penalty for Murder Inc. gang members Kevin L. Gray and Rodney Moore. Gray was convicted in 19 murders and Moore was found guilty in 10 . The deadlock meant both received life in prison without parole.

In the other case, a federal jury in 2004 rejected the death penalty for 1-5 Mob leader Tommy Edelin, who was convicted of four murders in the prosecution of the Southeast gang.

The case began in February with prosecutors describing Gooch as a ruthless killer who did not hesitate to shoot anybody who threatened the livelihood of the M Street Crew — including police.

“There were murders, and there was an awful lot of drug activity,” said Assistant U.S. Attorney Darlene Soltys. “His role as a primary enforcer allowed them to thrive.”

Miss Soltys said Gooch’s motto was “live for the block, die for the block.”

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