For nearly 10 months, a federal jury has heard often graphic testimony about the killings and drug-dealing of a Washington gang that investigators dubbed "Murder Inc." Yesterday the jurors were asked to decide what to do with the two men they convicted as leaders: whether to give them life prison terms or sentence them to death.
Prosecutors said Kevin L. Gray and Rodney L. Moore deserved to die for orchestrating the slayings of 29 people, a record number for any two defendants in the nation's capital. Defense attorneys countered that it would be unfair to execute them because they had troubled upbringings and because the four co-defendants convicted in the case do not face death.
After two days of closing arguments from lawyers, U.S. District Judge Royce C. Lamberth told the jury yesterday to return Monday to begin deliberations. The sentencing form is 66 pages, a step-by-step analysis of the crimes versus any mitigating factors.
Gray, 31, and Moore, 37, listened along with jurors as Assistant U.S. Attorney Timothy Heaphy called both men "killers, drug dealers and kingpins," who hunted down and killed their victims to allow their massive drug enterprise to thrive. If jurors choose execution, Gray and Moore could become the first people executed in the District since 1957.
The case stemmed from a decade of violence in all parts of the city, ending in 1999, that included the killings of rivals, potential witnesses, customers who failed to pay drug debts and people who had nothing to do with the drug business, prosecutors said. In January, the jury convicted Gray of carrying out 19 murders and Moore of 10 killings.
"Does Kevin Gray deserve to die for those 19 murders? Does Rodney Moore deserve to die for those 10 murders?" Heaphy asked jurors in closing arguments on Wednesday. "The answer to both questions is yes."
Francis D. Carter, one of Gray's attorneys, told jurors that Gray should not be executed because prosecutors never sought death for the four co-defendants, as well as others who pleaded guilty or helped in the killings.
"These were people who aided and abetted in the death of these people, and they will never face the death penalty," Carter said. "Stop the madness. Death is not appropriate for Kevin Gray."
One of Moore's attorneys, Steve McCool, told jurors that a life prison term would be sufficient punishment because Moore would never be freed. "He will die in prison. There's no question about that," McCool said.
The capital charges against the men were for carrying out murder in aid of racketeering or for killing as part of a continuing criminal enterprise.
Gray was convicted of three such charges for the slayings of Scott Downing in 1993 and Rodney Faison and Ricky Fletcher in 1998. Moore faces one capital offense for the 1998 slaying of Roy Cobb.
The proceedings are unusual in the District, where city law and public sentiment historically have opposed capital punishment. The most severe sentence under D.C. law is life in prison without parole. However, federal prosecutors can bring capital charges in any local jurisdiction if they prove the offense violated a federal statute punishable by death.
Carter told jurors he intended to neither justify nor excuse Gray's actions, but rather offer an explanation. He talked about how Gray's life, at age 15, spiraled into a world of drug-dealing when his drug-addicted parents failed him.
"We are arguing that how he grew up, what his family and his community showed him, impacted the choices he made," Carter said. "The violence didn't start with Kevin Gray, and the violence will not end if you put Kevin Gray to death."
McCool asked the jury for mercy. "I'm asking you to banish [Moore] into the bowels of a federal penitentiary for the rest of his life," he said.
Heaphy said that both men, prompted by greed and false pride, knew exactly what they were doing by knowingly and carefully planning and ordering the deaths of so many people. "Look at them and give them what they deserve," he said. "Sentence them to death."
Staff writer Neely Tucker contributed to this report.