Dante Taylor was convicted Thursday of first-degree murder for raping and killing a young Medford mother two years ago, a verdict that left the victim’s large, extended family sobbing in relief in the Riverhead courtroom.
The guilty verdict came after 14 1⁄2 hours of deliberations over three days, shortly after jurors reviewed photographs of the palm print Taylor left on the hood of Sarah Goode’s car. Prosecutors said the print was left in her blood, while the defense said her blood was deposited on the print.
“It’s been a very, very long and difficult road for them to try and get justice for their sister,” Assistant District Attorney Janet Albertson said, as most of Goode’s eight siblings and other family clustered around her. “It won’t bring her back, but it will bring them a measure of peace.”StoryProsecutor: Taylor guilty despite DA's mistakesStoryDefense closes in Dante Taylor murder caseStoryJudge: Defendant’s right to fair trial violated
Earlier, the Suffolk prosecutor prepared the family in the courtroom after the jury indicated it had made a decision.
“Are you ready? You better be,” she told them, as some gasped and started to cry. “There’s a verdict. Remember, silence. Do not say anything. Do not do anything. I mean it.”
Still, some could not suppress their joy and relief at the result.
Taylor, 21, of Mastic, did not react visibly to the verdict. He faces a maximum of life in prison without parole when state Supreme Court Justice John Collins sentences him on July 29.
In the hall, Goode’s family cheered Albertson with chants of “Janet! Janet!” when she emerged from the courtroom.
Goode, 21, was stabbed more than 40 times on June 7, 2014 and ultimately killed in a wooded area in Medford. Even before her body was found almost six days later, police focused on Taylor after realizing he was the last person to call her phone, and he did so while traveling toward where she was.
One sister, Toni Ann DeMuria, said the verdict will help the family, including Goode’s 6-year-old daughter Jocelyn, who just graduated from kindergarten. “Now we can tell her daughter we fought for her,” she said.
The fight was made more difficult than it would have been otherwise by a remarkable series of police blunders and what Collins found to be prosecutorial misconduct. Pretrial hearings showed that police first questioned Taylor without reading him his rights and searched his car without a warrant.
Later, Collins found that prosecutors illegally withheld from the defense a series of CrimeStoppers tips pointing to other possible suspects, and destroyed a threatening voice mail message from the boyfriend she had just broken up with.
Through it all, both Albertson and Goode’s family remained convinced Taylor was guilty and undeserving of any mercy.
“Demon seeds don’t get forgiveness,” said Lynn DeMuria, 36, one of Goode’s sisters.
“We got what we wanted,” said her mother, Elizabeth Goode, of Medford.
Outside the courthouse, the family unpacked the Justice4Sarah placards and T-shirts that had to be kept hidden during the trial. They applauded, thanked and cheered the jurors, who left stoically without talking.
On Tuesday, Albertson gave jurors a detailed explanation of how she contended the evidence showed Taylor raped and killed Goode after meeting her hours earlier at a street party.
She told the jury no one but Taylor could have killed Goode.
Albertson rejected defense attorney John Lewis Jr.’s claims that his client had consensual sex with Goode and that someone else attacked her where her bloody car was found on Fire Avenue. Instead, she said the attack happened at the end of Camden Court, an empty cul-de-sac where kids liked to drink and hang out.
She suggested Taylor became enraged when Goode likely rejected his advances and broke her nose in her car. Blood spatter in and on the car shows how she was dragged out of the driver’s seat and out the passenger side door.
Lewis said he was surprised by the verdict. “In the end, they couldn’t get over a bloody palm print,” he said.
Lewis said the cumulative effect of prosecutorial misconduct, evidence improperly admitted during the trial and an excessive closing argument by Albertson ensure that the verdict will be overturned on appeal.
“Unfortunately for the victim’s family, there’s really no closure,” Lewis said. “Justice is not served with this kind of conduct.”
He said his client, who left the Marines six months after enlisting, was disappointed with the verdict.