Wash­ing­ton sniper con­victed

Malta Independent - - NEWS -

An ex-sol­dier who served in the Gulf War has been found guilty of at least one of the Wash­ing­ton sniper killings in Oc­to­ber last year.

John Allen Muham­mad, 42, may now face the death penalty.

He was con­victed of shoot­ing dead Dean Mey­ers at a petrol sta­tion in Manas­sas, Virginia, on 9 Oc­to­ber 2002, and mur­der­ing “at least one other per­son”.

Af­ter just six and a half hours the jury at a court in Virginia Beach, Virginia, found him guilty on all four counts of mur­der, ter­ror­ism, con­spir­acy and a firearms charge.

Two of the jury mem­bers were cry­ing as the ver­dict was read out, but Muham­mad showed lit­tle emo­tion.

New law

The ter­ror­ism charge was brought un­der a new law en­acted by Virginia fol­low­ing the 9/11 at­tacks on New York and Wash­ing­ton in 2001. Un­der the law, ter­ror­ists can be given the death penalty.

Dur­ing the three-week killing spree last Oc­to­ber, 10 peo­ple died and three were wounded.

The vic­tims were cho­sen at ran­dom, while they shopped, mowed lawns or put petrol in their cars at garages.

The killer played a cat-and-mouse game with the po­lice, leav­ing a let­ter at the scene of one of the shoot­ings de­mand­ing a $10 mil­lion pay­ment from the US govern­ment and ask­ing them to “Call me God”.

The area was so ter­rorised that sports teams prac­tised in­doors and peo­ple kept their heads down or hid in their cars when they used petrol pumps.

Dur­ing the trial, prose­cu­tors por­trayed Muham­mad as a cold-blooded killer who trained his 17-year-old ac­com­plice, Lee Boyd Malvo, as an ex­pert sniper.

The pair spe­cially mod­i­fied a car to al­low shoot­ing through a hole cut in the boot. They were ar­rested while sleep­ing in the car in late Oc­to­ber.

Malvo, now 18, is on trial sep­a­rately in nearby Ch­e­sa­peake, ac­cused of mur­der­ing FBI an­a­lyst Linda Franklin, shot dead on 14 Oc­to­ber 2002 in Falls Church, Virginia.

His lawyers are ar­gu­ing he was brain­washed by Muham­mad, whom he looked up to as a fa­ther fig­ure.

Death penalty

Muham­mad has through­out de­nied he was in­volved, ar­gu­ing that the case against him was cir­cum­stan­tial.

Rel­a­tives of the vic­tims wel­comed the ver­dict, and some urged the jury to de­cide in favour of the death penalty.

“I con­sider jus­tice to have been served,” said Bob Mey­ers, the brother of Dean Mey­ers, the vic­tim at the heart of the trial.

“I be­lieve that cap­i­tal pun­ish­ment is an ap­pro­pri­ate re­sponse in cer­tain crimes, and I must say that I can’t think of too many more heinous crimes than this one.”

Lee Boyd Malvo was also found guilty of mur­der and ter­ror­ism in De­cem­ber 2003. He was sen­tenced to life in pri­son with­out pa­role.

In March 2004, a judge for­mally handed down the death sen­tence to John Allen Muham­mad for his role in the killings.

Dur­ing the sen­tenc­ing hear­ing, Muham­mad con­tin­ued to deny he was in­volved.

Un­der Virginia state law his death penalty will au­to­mat­i­cally go to ap­peal, and the ac­tual date of his ex­e­cu­tion may be some time off.

Both men could face fur­ther charges from other states in re­la­tion to other mur­ders.

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