Death penalty may be sought in three killings at Starbucks

Prosecutors say suspect has violent history, but many in D.C. oppose action

February 20, 2000|By NEW YORK TIMES NEWS SERVICE

WASHINGTON -- Federal prosecutors are pressing for the death penalty against a man charged with murdering three employees at a Starbucks coffee shop in July 1997, clearing the way for the city's first death penalty case in nearly 30 years.

In an outline recently issued, the prosecutors said they wanted to press a capital charge because the defendant has a history of violent crime. They said he shows no remorse and poses a continuing threat.

Carl D. Cooper, 30, has been charged with the three killings in the affluent Georgetown section of the city. The bodies of Emory Allen Evans, 25, of Mount Rainier; Mary Caitrin Mahoney, 24, of Baltimore; and Aaron David Goodrich, 18, of Washington were found by another Starbucks employee.

The case gained national attention because it happened in one of the city's fashionable neighborhoods, a 34-square-block area northwest of downtown Washington known for bars, restaurants, boutiques and narrow residential streets of expensive townhouses. Georgetown is home to members of Congress, Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright and other political figures, as well as Georgetown University. There is not a great deal of crime or violence in the area.

Attorney General Janet Reno decided to seek the death penalty for Cooper with advice from Wilma A. Lewis, the U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia. A death penalty review panel at the Justice Department concurred.

Kenneth L. Wainstein, assistant U.S. attorney, in a 35-page document, noted Cooper's "continuing pattern of criminal conduct," including armed robberies dating to 1989 and possession of firearms and drugs dating to 1988; laundering of money obtained from robberies; and threats to murder witnesses and law enforcement officers.

The case moved to federal court in August with a 48-count indictment against Cooper, charging him with crimes from 1993 to 1997. His trial is to start May 2 in federal court in Washington.

The city repealed the death penalty in 1980. Residents voted overwhelmingly in the 1992 election to reject a provision that would have reinstated the death sentence.

City officials, many of whom are opposed to the decision to make Cooper's a capital case, criticized Reno for ignoring the views of the city's residents and urged that the city be allowed to handle the situation with some autonomy. If Cooper were prosecuted under local jurisdiction, the maximum sentence he could receive would be life in prison without the possibility of parole.

Eleanor Holmes Norton, the city's delegate to Congress, wrote to Lewis: "The Cooper case is essentially a local homicide matter with federal charges tacked on. If the District had a local prosecutor, she could not ask for the death penalty. Where the local jurisdiction of taxpaying citizens is deprived of a local prosecutor, the U.S. attorney has a special obligation to respect local law."

Pub Date: 2/20/00

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