A former GW graduate student who was found guilty Monday of first-degree murder might spend his life in prison.
Rahul Gupta – who was found guilty of fatally stabbing his friend, a Georgetown University law student, in October 2013 – will face sentencing on April 16 after the jury deliberated his case for less than five hours, the Washington Post reported.
Maryland, where Gupta was convicted, does not use the death sentence as a penalty for any crime, including murder.
Gupta, who was pursuing a master’s degree in biomedical engineering at the time of the incident, initially told police that he had killed his friend Mark Waugh because he thought Waugh and his girlfriend were romantically involved behind his back. Gupta, Waugh and Gupta’s girlfriend, Taylor Gould, had gone out drinking the night of Oct. 12, 2013 to celebrate Gupta’s 24th birthday.
Lawyers for Gupta and the prosecution both did not return multiple requests for comment. Defense lawyers argued during the trial that Gould actually killed Waugh, and that Gupta admitted to the crime to protect her. Gould said in court that she blacked out after drinking too much alcohol.
Gupta and Waugh had both graduated from Langley High School in northeast Virginia. Gupta went to GW to earn an undergraduate degree in biomedical engineering, while Waugh earned his bachelor’s degree in history from James Madison University. Gould also earned a bachelor’s degree in biomedical engineering from GW.
The jury looked over almost 250 pieces of evidence, including photos and the cellphones of Gould, Waugh and Gupta, according to court documents.
Legal experts, like Roland Lee, a former Maryland prosecutor, said Gupta admitting to the crime may not influence the length of his sentence, but could influence the “psychological effect on a judge that’s hearing a sentence.”
“If he were to kill the guy and then flee, not taking responsibility for the crime, the judge would have said, ‘You were a menace to society,’” he said.
Lee said the defense’s argument that Gould killed Waugh likely will not play into how long Gupta will be sentenced to prison.
“Everyone has to be responsible for their own act,” he said.