Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

The Starbucks Shooter

The Ball Keeps Rolling

Senior U.S. District Judge Joyce Hens Green
Senior U.S. District Judge Joyce Hens Green

On February 1, 2000, Senior U.S. District Judge Joyce Hens Green ruled that prosecutors could use Cooper's statements to the police as evidence in his trial. "The record shows," she stated, "that Cooper had an easy, comfortable, familiar, confident attitude toward his interrogators. Both on the facts and the law, there is no evidence to show Cooper's statements were anything but voluntary. Instead they were clearly voluntary, readily and eagerly initiated, and provided free of coercion and duress." Cooper had no more ground on which to stand. He'd even written on one of his statements, "I've wanted to admit this ever since it happened. It had to be known."

Janet Reno
Janet Reno

By February 15, prosecutors announced that they would seek the death penalty, under federal rather than D.C. statutes. Attorney General Janet Reno made the controversial decision, which sparked a great deal of criticism. However, there had been some developments.

Investigators had evidence from the wiretaps that Cooper had threatened to kill five people he viewed as potential witnesses against him, as well as two investigators on the case and their families. In addition, he was a suspect in even more armed robberies, and his lengthy record of violent crimes, coupled with his lack of remorse, indicated that he could not be rehabilitated. He was a danger to society, even in prison.

Had it moved forward as a capital case, it would have been the first one for the District in thirty years. The last execution had occurred there in 1957. But before it came to that, Cooper's attorneys examined the evidence and learned how many of Cooper's former associates had agreed to testify against him. One of them would describe precisely how Cooper had planned the Starbucks episode. Cooper was persuaded to accept a deal that spared his life and protected his wife and mother from prosecution as accomplices.

On April 25, 2000, a week before his trial was to begin, Cooper came into court to plead guilty to the forty-seven counts against him, including the Starbucks murders. As he admitted to each charge, one after the other, he wept, but he never expressed remorse to the relatives of the victims who packed the courtroom. He received a sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole. Prosecutors also agreed not to pursue charges against his wife or mother, both of whom had assisted him in some manner.

The mother of one of Cooper's victims said, "You could just detect the demon inside this young man's body."

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