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Yesterday, a jury in U.S. District Court rejected giving a D.C. resident the death penalty. Instead, Larry Gooch will be sentenced to life without parole. Gooch’s trial began in January with jury selection taking about a month. In March, we wrote a cover story detailing jury selection in D.C. death-penalty cases. These cases are made all that more difficult by the fact that the city voted against the death penalty by a 2-to-1 margin in 1992.
Gooch, alleged gang member of the M Street Crew, was charged in 37 counts of a larger indictment involving other defendants. Jurors took three weeks to decide the defendant’s guilt or innocence. Jensen Barber, one of Gooch’s attorneys, says this case—-in which Gooch was found guilty of two capital murder charges—-is an example of the Justice Department overreaching in significant ways.
“I don’t understand why the Department of Justice keeps bringing death-penalty cases to a city whose population is on the side of the angels. Mr. Gooch, this case, was, I think, a drug case…on to which the federal government grafted two street-level murders to bring it to federal court in order to seek the death penalty. It was contrived.”
Barber says a death-penalty case should not be about how many murders are attached to a defendant. “I think you don’t add them up in terms of people. You add them up in terms of malice. This just doesn’t fit the definition of the worst of the worst. It just doesn’t….It just doesn’t go there.”