May 31, 2006 in Nation/World

Maryland jury finds sniper guilty of six murders

Ernesto Londono and Eric Rich Washington Post
 

WASHINGTON – A jury on Tuesday convicted sniper John Allan Muhammad on six counts of first-degree murder, holding him accountable for six slayings in Montgomery County, Md.

The verdict, reached after four-and-a-half hours of deliberation, is Muhammad’s second conviction in the case. He has already been convicted in Virginia, where he is awaiting execution.

As the foreperson of the jury announced the verdict, saying the word “guilty” after each of the victims’ names, some among the relatives in the courtroom wept.

Muhammad, wearing a tan suit, stood with his arms crossed but had no discernible reaction. After the jury’s decision was announced, he asked the judge: “Your honor, may I speak?”

“No sir,” Montgomery County Circuit Court Judge James Ryan responded.

Muhammad was led out of the courtroom in handcuffs.

Many on the jury of five men and seven women had said before they were seated that they had strong opinions about Muhammad’s guilt but could put them aside and assess the case solely on the evidence presented in court.

Maryland prosecutors spent nearly three weeks painstakingly outlining evidence that tied Muhammad and his accomplice, Lee Boyd Malvo, to 10 homicides and three nonfatal shootings committed in the Washington, D.C., area in October 2002 with a high-powered rifle.

The high point of the trial – which included testimony and evidence similar to that presented in the snipers’ trials in Virginia – came last week when Malvo agreed to plead guilty and took the stand against Muhammad.

Malvo, 21, testified that Muhammad was the mastermind of the scheme and said the older sniper pulled the trigger in most of the shootings. Malvo was convicted in a sniper slaying in Virginia and was sentenced to life without the possibility of parole.

Muhammad, who represented himself at trial, implied that his case had been the product of a sweeping law enforcement conspiracy to frame an innocent man.

He seemed to enjoy his role as a trial lawyer at times, but toward the end of the trial often appeared flustered, confused and angry. He complained that he would not receive a fair trial in Montgomery and fought unsuccessfully to subpoena witnesses who live outside of Maryland.

Muhammad is expected to be sentenced in Maryland in coming weeks but to return to Virginia shortly thereafter, where most of his appeals have been exhausted.

He could still face prosecution for earlier shootings in Alabama and Louisiana. He and Malvo are linked to other shootings in Maryland, Arizona, Georgia and Washington state.


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