- The Washington Times - Sunday, March 4, 2007

The defendant in a rare death-penalty case in the District is asking for a mistrial.

Larry Gooch, accused of being the enforcer for the violent M Street Crew drug gang in Northeast, last week asked the federal court judge in the case to declare a mistrial. He claims he is not receiving adequate legal representation.

Mr. Gooch said he wants a mistrial because one of his attorneys recently elicited “damaging” testimony from Metropolitan Police Department Detective Carlton Herndon, according to defense filings.

Under cross-examination by defense attorney Thomas Heslep, the detective told jurors he thought Mr. Gooch wasn’t seen around 18th and M streets Northeast after April 30, 2003, “because he shot people” in an alley, defense attorneys say.

Mr. Gooch, 27, is accused of carrying out the fatal shootings of Yolanda Miller and her boyfriend, Calvin Cooper, on Feb. 21, 2003. Prosecutors said he shot them because he suspected they were stealing drugs or cooperating with police. Mr. Cooper was found shot three times in the back in an alley.

Mr. Gooch faces murder, kidnapping, racketeering and other felony charges.

He requested the mistrial after more than a month of testimony and the same week that Mr. Gooch’s attorneys filed court papers stating they provided their client with “ineffective assistance of counsel.”

Prosecutors say the request for a mistrial is “totally devoid of merit” and that the attorneys’ filing only shows “disharmony” among them.

The death penalty is banned under D.C. law, but it can be sought for some federal crimes.

Mr. Gooch also is charged in the Aug. 1, 2000, shooting deaths of Christopher Lane, 19, and William Cunningham, 27, and the Sept. 13, 2002, shooting death of Miguel Miles, 34. Prosecutors say Mr. Gooch killed Mr. Cunningham during a home invasion robbery, while a co-defendant killed Mr. Lane.

More than two dozen people connected to the case were arrested by 2004. Several of the gang’s leaders have been tried and convicted, including three men serving sentences of life in prison, but Mr. Gooch is the only M Street Crew defendant facing a death penalty.

Testimony began last month and is expected to resume today. U.S. District Judge Rosemary M. Collyer has not ruled on Mr. Gooch’s request for a mistrial, according to court filings.

Even if the judge denies the request, Mr. Gooch has asked that Mr. Heslep be removed from the defense team, according to filings.

Prosecutor also object to that request.

“Defense [attorneys] should not lose focus on their ultimate obligation, which is to represent the interests of their client,” Assistant U.S. Attorney John P. Dominguez stated in court pleadings. “They should subordinate all other concerns to fulfill this objective and should put aside any petty bickering and simply find a way to work together to achieve this objective.”


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