A D.C. Superior Court jury yesterday convicted the last two young persons on trial for the murder of Catherine Fuller, two days after it found six others guilty of kicking and punching the 48-year-old woman to death during a 1984 robbery.
The jury of seven women and five men, looking tired after two days of deliberations since it reported it would be impossible to reach agreement on the final two defendants, pronounced Christopher D. Turner, 20, and Russell L. Overton, 26, guilty of first-degree murder, armed robbery and kidnaping.
The verdicts, delivered at 11:35 a.m., brought to a close a trial that has gripped the city and left Overton looking astonished and Turner quivering in tears.
As the verdicts were announced, Turner slumped in his chair and cried. In her third row seat, Turner's sister, Charlene, whispered, "Chrissie, don't cry, don't cry," as she, too, cried.
On Monday, another Turner brother, 21-year-old Charles S. Turner, was among the six men convicted. One man and a 17-year-old girl were acquitted.
Overton, also known as "Bobo," initially appeared stoic as jury foreman Robert D. Lucas began to read the verdicts, but tears soon began to run down his face as he took off the black bow tie he has worn during much of the proceedings.
The jurors, who filed into Courtroom No. 1 for the last time, looked drained yesterday as they stood to respond individually to each of the charges against the two men. Some, like foreman Lucas, boomed "guilty" each time; while others barely whispered "guilty."
Late Monday, one juror complained to Judge Robert M. Scott in a note that the panel had voted more than 10 times on Turner and Overton and that he "personally did not want to go over it any more." Contacted at their homes yesterday after being sequestered in a hotel since Friday, jurors said they subsequently had voted "40 to 50" times on the remaining two men. They did not explain what finally broke the impasse.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Jerry S. Goren strode from the courtroom yesterday, clasping hands with many of the detectives with whom he has worked for more than a year. "I feel good," he said.
The eight convictions, however, do not mean the end of the case. Goren yesterday would not comment on future indictments, but during a court hearing last week he announced that a grand jury would be convened "very soon" to investigate other suspects as a result of trial testimony. In addition to the eight convicted this week, two other young men have previously pleaded guilty to reduced charges as part of a government plea agreement and another defendant is awaiting trial.
David Fuller, Catherine Fuller's widower, said from his Northeast home, "I feel good! I feel good!"
Barbara Wade, Fuller's sister who has kept vigil for the family throughout the court proceeding, said she was "overwhelmed with joy" by the verdicts and said the family could now celebrate "Catherine's Christmas, her birthday."
At a City Hall news conference, Mayor Marion Barry called the murder "one of the most hideous crimes in this city. I'm delighted the evidence was there, and the justice system was there to convict them."
Prosecutors alleged that Fuller was beaten to death Oct. 1, 1984, after a group of young people picked her out as a random robbery victim. She was forced into a Northeast alley and then dragged into an abandoned garage, prosecutors said, where a pole was shoved into her rectum.
Defense lawyers did not dispute the brutality of Fuller's beating, but questioned whether the government had the right people on trial. Many of the defense lawyers said yesterday they planned to appeal their clients' convictions.
Lawyers for Overton and Turner speculated that in reaching its final verdicts the jury had finally grown tired of the numerous alibi defenses presented by six of the 10 defendants, including Turner and Overton.
"If all the alibis were believed we would have had to believe that the woman was all alone in the alley, which is absurd," said Overton's lawyer, Allan Palmer.
"The number of alibis rendered the alibi defense absurd," agreed Turner's attorney, Robert DeBarardinis. As for his client's feelings, DeBarardinis said, "He knows his life is over now."