Keir Johnson, Lester Williams, Found Guilty of First-Degree Murder

Keir Johnson and Lester Williams were found guilty of first-degree premeditated murder while armed and other weapons, conspiracy, and criminal street gang offenses Friday in connection to the shooting death of Jamal Coates.

Coates, 21, was shot and killed in September 2010 while leaving a friend’s funeral in the U Street corridor. The incident happened during broad daylight on a busy intersection with several eye witnesses to the shooting.

The trial, which began in November of last year, dealt with three separate murders, 80 criminal counts, and four co-defendants. After 38 days in trial and eight days of deliberations, the jury delivered a partial verdict late Friday afternoon.

During the trial prosecutors argued that the motive for all four defendants was their allegiance to “G-Rod” and their attempt to gain power.

Defense attorneys argued that eyewitness testimony contradicted that of former members of G-Rod who have been convicted and were called to the stand. They asked the jury not to trust “G-Rod” member testimony and to question some of the evidence used by prosecutors, such as a rap video in which all four defendants participated.

Williams and Johnson were charged along with Robert Givens and Marcellus Jackson in a trial that involved four of the seven men indicted in 2011 for a series of gang, weapons, drugs, and violent crimes reported to have taken place in Columbia Heights, Adams Morgan and the U Street corridor since 2006.

Givens was acquitted of the charge of first-degree premeditated murder while armed but was found guilty of the lesser charge of second-degree murder while armed in connection to the murder of Sean Robinson.

The jury delivered a partial verdict for Jackson and the judge asked the jury to continue deliberating Monday morning despite a note from the jury at 2:30 P.M. that stated “further deliberation will not provide/yield a unanimous verdict on Marcellus Jackson.”

In September of last year Johnson and Williams turned down a government plea offer to second-degree murder while armed.

All four men including Jackson were found guilty of conspiracy, and criminal street gang offenses. Sentencing for Williams, Johnson and Givens is scheduled for June 13, at 10:30 A.M.

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