Wed, Nov 26, 2003 - Page 6 News List

Jury calls for sniper's execution

ARROGANT KILLER Jurors said John Allen Muhammad's lack of remorse convinced them he had to die. He showed no emotion as their decision was read out on Monday


A jury on Monday called for John Allen Muhammad to be executed for the sniper killings which terrorized the Washington region last year.

The 42-year-old Gulf War veteran showed no emotion and made no comment as the jury said he should face Virginia state's electric chair or lethal injection for capital murder and a terrorism charge.

Many jurors said after the hearing it was the lack of remorse that convinced them Muhammad deserved to die. Judge LeRoy Millette scheduled formal sentencing for February 12.

After a six-week trial, Muhammad was found guilty last week of the murder of Dean Meyers, one of the 10 people killed in random shootings in October last year. Meyers was killed by a single rifle shot as he put petrol in his car in a Virginia self-service station on Oct. 9 last year.

The second accused sniper, Lee Boyd Malvo, 18, is on trial separately in the nearby town of Chesapeake.

The jury, which also recommended a 10-year jail term for conspiracy and three years for illegal use of a firearm, deliberated for less than six hours before announcing its execution recommendation.

"We are pleased with the ver-dict," said chief prosecutor Paul Ebert after the hearing. He described the killings as "an atrocious act."

"They took pleasure killing people and they took pleasure terrorizing people and that is the kind of people that doesn't deserve to be in society," he told reporters.

Some of the jury of seven women and five men told how they had agonized over the sentence during the weekend but that Muhammad's behavior in the courtroom had swayed them.

"Part of it was maybe some arrogance on his part," said jury foreman Jerry Haggerty. "The violence was there across the board and the lack of remorse."

The jury had been looking for a sign, the foreman said, before adding: "For the most part, he just sat there. It seemed like he didn't care."

Another juror, Dennis Bowman, told how he had at first voted for life imprisonment on Friday but changed his mind during a sleepless weekend. He decided that if left alive there would always be a risk that Muhammad would commit more violence even in prison.

The defense had insisted there was no proof that Muhammad had fired the rifle in any of the killings.

Muhammad did not give evidence at the trial. But prosecutors concentrated on presenting circumstantial evidence putting Muhammad at the scene of each of the 10 killings and three woundings blamed on the Washington snipers.

Prosecutors presented 154 witness accounts and more than 400 other pieces of evidence to back their case that Muhammad and Malvo toured the Washington suburbs in a battered old car that was specially fitted out to pick off victims without being seen.

Muhammad faced terrorism charges because prosecutors said the accused snipers had tried to get US$10 million from the US authorities to stop the killings.

But prosecutors also suggested that he orchestrated the killings because he planned to murder his ex-wife Mildred to get back custody of their three children.

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