A D.C. man was acquitted Wednesday of all murder charges in connection with the fatal stabbing of a transgender woman at a bus stop in Northeast Washington in 2012.
After a week-long trial, a D.C. Superior Court jury spent nearly two days deliberating before they declared Gary Montgomery, 60, not guilty in the slaying of 23-year-old JaParker Deoni Jones.
Prosecutors argued Montgomery became infatuated with Jones when he saw her for the first time on the night of Feb. 2, 2012, as they sat at a bus stop in the 4900 block of East Capitol Street NE.
Jones ignored his stares and a spurned Montgomery stabbed her in a rage, prosecutors contended.
Montgomery’s attorneys argued that police had arrested the wrong man and that although Montgomery was at the bus stop that evening, he had left Jones sitting at the stop minutes before another person arrived and plunged a kitchen knife into her right temple.
After the jury foreperson delivered the not guilty verdicts, Jones’s mother and sister ran from the courtroom in tears.
“He killed my baby. He killed my baby, and you let him go,” Judean Jones yelled as one of her daughters tried to comfort her. Jones’s screams were so loud, people in nearby courtrooms poured into the hallway to see what was happening.
Also standing nearby were four of the jurors, three wiping away their tears while watching Jones’s sobbing.
Those jurors pointed to several issues that led to the decision to acquit:
There was no DNA evidence presented, no eyewitnesses to the attack. A security video showed Montgomery limping as he went to the bus stop and sat beside Jones.
But the four jurors said what convinced them Montgomery was not the killer was a four-minute segment of the grainy security video, which did not show Montgomery or Jones.
When Jones reappeared on camera, Montgomery’s attorneys argued their client never returned and, instead, the killer appeared at the bus stop.
“We just couldn’t get around that four-minute gap,” one juror said.
“There just wasn’t enough evidence,” one juror said. “We looked over every piece of evidence. We made charts. We reviewed every statement and video. There was nothing that indicated he was the killer.
Another juror said it was “likely” Jones was killed for being transgender, but there was no evidence tagging Montgomery as the killer.
“I know this result will withhold closure from the victim’s family, and I am sorry for that,” the juror said. “I just wish there had been sufficient evidence to convince me beyond a reasonable doubt.”
During the trial, Assistant U.S. attorneys Jennifer Kerkhoff and David Gorman played numerous security videos and put on several witnesses who testified to seeing Montgomery at the bus stop. One witness said Montgomery kept staring at Jones as she ignored him.
As they looked for the killer, detectives released security video from a nearby restaurant which led several people to identify Montgomery as the man walking to the bus stop, and he was arrested.
Prosecutors also played a police video in which Montgomery talked about how he “crushed” the “pretty lady” at the bus stop.
David Knight and Monica Douglas of the District’s Public Defender Service argued Montgomery was using street slang for flirting and detectives “took advantage” of him by charging him with murder at the age of 55 and with a history of mental illness.
“The government didn’t care about getting it right. They only cared about getting a conviction,” Knight told the jury during his closing arguments Monday.
Montgomery’s attorneys played a security video from a different restaurant near the bus stop in the minutes after Jones’s killing that showed a man in a black jacket and gray hooded sweatshirt minutes after Jones’s killing. A bystander in a car that night had described that type of clothing on a man the bystander had pursued but lost in the darkness. Montgomery was wearing a light brown jacket that evening, his attorneys argued.
As the verdict was read, Montgomery showed no reaction. Judge Lynn Leibovitz ordered Montgomery released from custody. He had been a patient at St. Elizabeths Hospital, the District’s psychiatric facility, since his arrest.
The case took more than five years to make it to trial after an extended back-and-forth as to whether Montgomery was competent to stand trial.