The Washington Post

Members of street gang charged with murders in Adams Morgan, U Street found guilty

After a four-month trial, a D.C. Superior Court jury found members of a D.C. street gang guilty of two murders, one of which was a brazen, fatal afternoon shooting in the busy U Street corridor.

The jury found Robert Givens, 21, Keir Johnson, 24, Lester Williams, 26, and Marcellus Jackson, 25, guilty of murder, conspiracy and other crimes, the U.S. Attorney’s Office announced late Tuesday.

The men were connected with the September 2010 fatal shooting of Jamal Coates, 21, after Coates attended a funeral, prosecutors said. The men were also connected with the August 2010 murder of Sean Robinson, 18, prosecutors said.

It was a long and challenging trial that began with controversy as the prosecutors, in an unusual move, conducted criminal background checks on several of the potential jurors, most of whom were African American. The move sparked concern among many of the defense attorneys as well as Lynn Leibovitz, the judge overseeing the trial.

That jury was excused before testimony began, and another jury was added.

Once the trial began, prosecutors argued the four men were part of a street gang known as the 14th and Girard crew, or the G-Rod. The gang, prosecutors argued, had a long rivalry with other crews from nearby 17th and Euclid streets NW and the 600 block of Morton Street NW.

Prosecutors argued Givens was responsible for the Aug. 11, 2010 fatal shooting of Robinson, as Robinson stood in a parking lot of a school in the 2600 block of Mozart Street NW in Adams Morgan.

Then, a month later, more shootings erupted in the neighborhood. On the afternoon of Sept. 28, 2010, Coates was gunned down after attending the funeral of a friend in the 13th and U Streets corridor. The shooting sent busy U street patrons scattering for safety. Prosecutors argued Johnson, Williams and Jackson were responsible for Coates’s slaying and that Coates was a member of one of the rival street gangs.

The four men, who have been in D.C. jail since their arrests, are scheduled to be sentenced on June 13 and face decades in prison.

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Keith Alexander covers crime, specifically D.C. Superior Court cases for The Washington Post. He has covered dozens of crime stories from Banita Jacks, the Washington woman charged with killing her four daughters, to the murder trial of slain federal intern Chandra Levy.

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