- The Washington Times - Monday, June 4, 2007

Jurors in the case of Larry Gooch, an enforcer in a D.C. drug gang found guilty of murder, will begin deciding today whether he should receive the death penalty.

Gooch, 27, was found guilty Friday in U.S. District Court of the Aug. 1, 2000, murders of Christopher Lane, 19, and William Cunningham, 27, and the Feb. 21, 2003, murders of Calvin Cooper, 40, and his girlfriend, Yolanda Miller, 32.

Yesterday, the jurors received their instructions to determine whether the government has proven beyond a reasonable doubt that Gooch meets criteria making him eligible for the death penalty.

The jury could deliver its decision as early as tomorrow.

If Gooch is determined to be eligible for the death penalty, it will lead to the penalty-selection phase of the case, which would likely start next week.

At that point, the government will take testimony from victims and family members to show why Gooch deserves to be executed. The defense will counter with testimony and arguments as to why Gooch should receive life in prison without parole. He was found guilty after 15 days of deliberation.

Though capital punishment is banned in the District, Gooch could get the death penalty because he has been charged in a federal case.

The Justice Department last year filed a notice of intent to seek the death penalty against Gooch, a decision that had required the approval of U.S. Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales.

According to court documents, Gooch, nicknamed “Goo,” was considered “crazy” by other members of the M Street Crew, a PCP ring in Northeast. He acted as the gang’s “enforcer” or “muscle,” the documents state.

Three leaders in the M Street gang are serving life sentences in the case. More than 30 people have been arrested, but Gooch is the only defendant facing the death penalty.

Gooch shot Miss Miller and her boyfriend, Mr. Cooper, because he suspected they were stealing drugs or cooperating with police, prosecutors charged. Mr. Cooper was found shot three times in the back in an alley.

Gooch killed Mr. Cunningham during a home-invasion robbery, while a co-defendant killed Mr. Lane, authorities said.

During Gooch’s trial, which began in January, his attorneys argued that their client did not shoot anybody and challenged prosecutors’ depiction of him as an enforcer.

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