Since launching in 2010, Homicide Watch DC has tracked the cases of 320 people arrested for murder in the District. We track how those cases end in our database, whether in conviction or acquittal.
At the end of 2014, 96 suspects are still making their way through the court system. They are awaiting preliminary hearings, indictment or trial, a process that can take years.
Most cases end with a plea deal: 116 of the cases we’ve followed saw a defendant plead guilty, usually to something less than the original charge. Second-degree murder has been the most common conviction, with voluntary manslaughter close behind.
Forty-five suspects were convicted in a jury trial.
D.C. doesn’t use the death penalty, and life sentences are rare.
Calvin Shaw, convicted of killing Crevontai Key on July 4, 2012, was sentenced to 107 years, the longest prison term for any single murder in the four years we’ve tracked homicides. He was 24 at the time of his arrest.
Kwan Kearney was 21 the day he was sentenced to 45 years for the murder of Jamal Wilson. A few months earlier, a judge gave him 60 years for killing Joseph Alonzo Sharps Jr. The two murders happened a week apart.
“He’ll die in jail,” Kearney’s attorney, Gene Johnson, said at the second sentencing.
But there are as many short sentences as long ones. Many of those who commit murder in their 20s and plea will likely be out by middle age, sometimes sooner.
“Our pleas are very fact-driven and are made after consideration of the facts involved, the strength of the case and the defendant’s criminal record,” Jeffrey Ragsdale, who runs the homicide division for the US Attorney’s Office, said in an email interview. “No two cases are the same and the plea offers often vary due to these factors.”
“A sentence given to Deon is a sentence given to us all,” the men’s family wrote to the court.
Twelve suspects who were originally charged with first- or second-degree murder pleaded guilty to something less than involuntary manslaughter. For example:
- Curtis Patterson was sentenced to 11 1/2 years in prison for obstruction of justice and gun possession in connection with the October 2010 shooting death of Angelo Jones.
- Lanee Bell, one of six teens charged with the brutal beating death of Latisha Frazier, pleaded guilty to kidnapping. She was given a three-year suspended sentence.
- Frank Lee Blanding pleaded guilty to one count of aggravated assault for the fight that left Benjamin Jennings dead. He is awaiting sentencing.
Below is a chart of every cumulative murder sentence in our database: