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Death penalty off table for 2 suspects

Two reputed Dorchester gang members who had been slated for a federal trial that carried a potential death sentence will now be tried in state court, where they face a life prison sentence if convicted.

A Suffolk County grand jury indicted Darryl Green , 28, and Branden Morris , 24, of first-degree murder charges Thursday for the slaying of Terrell Gethers, 23, of Dorchester, who was gunned down during Boston's Caribbean Carnival in August 2001.

``We believe that the nature and quality of the evidence against these two defendants will allow us to prove the charge of murder and bring some sense of justice, however small, to the family of Terrell Gethers," said Suffolk District Attorney Daniel F. Conley in a statement released yesterday.

US Attorney Michael J. Sullivan announced that Attorney General Alberto Gonzales authorized the dismissal of the racketeering charges, which carried the death penalty, in the wake of the state charges ``and in the interests of justice."

Boston attorney Patricia Garin , who represents Morris, said, ``This case should never have been brought in federal court in the first place and they never should have sought the death penalty."

Green's lawyer, Randy Gioia , said that Green's parents ``went through three years of a nightmare thinking their son might be executed."

The federal indictment, returned in 2002, alleged Green, Morris, and three other men were part of a racketeering enterprise, the Esmond Street Crew, that sold drugs and tried to eliminate members of the rival Franklin Hill Giants. Green and Morris faced the death penalty because they were also charged with murder.

In January, US District Judge Nancy Gertner acquitted two codefendants, Jonathan Hart and Edward Washington , after a jury announced it was deadlocked over the racketeering charge. Gertner said prosecutors failed to prove there was a racketeering enterprise -- the charge that permitted a federal prosecution for gang-related shootings in Boston.

In a statement, Sullivan said he stood by his decision to seek the death penalty, but asked Conley to pursue state charges against Green and Morris after Gertner acquitted the other defendants.

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