Muhammad Trial

Transcript: Closing Argument by Defense Attorney Peter D. Greenspun

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Friday, November 14, 2003; 6:49 PM

The following is a transcript of the Nov. 13 closing argument by defense attorney Peter D. Greenspun in the capital murder trial of John Allen Muhammad. This is from a preliminary transcript of court proceedings compiled by court reporters Fiduciary Reporting Inc.

GREENSPUN: Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, may it please the court. . . . This is really our first opportunity given the circumstances to speak directly to you after jury selection. I don't expect that I'm going to take as long as [Prince William Assistant Commonwealth's Attorney Richard A.] Conway did, but it will be more than a few minutes; so if anyone needs a break at any point or anything to stretch your legs, just let me know and I'll ask the court permission to allow that to happen.

Ladies and gentlemen, this is a daunting task and it's a daunting period in this case for Mr. Shapiro, Ms. Leary, and myself on behalf of Mr. Muhammad.

From the first day of this trial, the trial part after you were selected as jurors, in the first moments of it, you saw a skilled and well presented and common sense presentation by Mr. Willett from the time he opened that duffel bag and he put together with skill and dispatch a duplicate Bushmaster firearm. You saw an equally skilled and prepared and cogent presentation by Mr. Conway over the last two hours before your lunch break.

During the course of this case, you heard from 150 witnesses plus, received 400 pieces of evidence plus from the Commonwealth, some 25 or so from us, several witnesses, but certainly there are numbers from us as well. But you saw the ability and the resources and the skill of that presentation. So we are here with a daunting task in light of the skill and the resources, but most realistically the experience and the abilities of these prosecutors and their very large team that they've put together here. So I ask you to hold off a little bit for the time being before you get to that deliberative process, that process of making decision, of coming to a result. And I'll talk about the result process in a second, if I could.

But before I do any of that, ladies and gentlemen, let me say that we are -- and I mean all of us from our side of the table -- are cognizant of the fact that you've heard for three weeks of evidence about victims -- about victims, people who were killed who did not do anything to provoke it. It wasn't a fight that brought about a bad result. About people who were injured who did nothing to provoke it and whose family members, some of whom are here in the courtroom and elsewhere who have suffered tremendous losses without any provocation or anticipation of that. And to those folks we express our sympathies and condolences and hope that the difficulties of going through this process will soon be at an end for them.

The difficulty of the task is if you start, ladies and gentlemen -- I mean you, the members of the jury -- start with the result, then we are starting and have been battling -- if you start with the result -- an uphill battle, which is against the burden of proof, against the directions and the orders of the court to you, and against the instructions of the law, the ones that you read with Judge Millette earlier this morning. If we need to battle the result first as opposed to the evidence of what the result means, then it's an almost impossible task. You saw some of the most horrible things that you'll ever have to see. And I dare say all of yours -- in most of your instances, I certainly hope -- join Mr. Conway in that hope.

You heard from doctors. You heard from medical examiners. You heard from family members and saw pictures of Mr. Meyers in life and Mr. Meyers in death through autopsy pictures. Not something that no matter how prepared for it you were, that I expect that you were prepared enough. Those are about the results, ladies and gentlemen. And if any of you want to look at the results first as a way to get to the result that Judge Millette tells you you must come to -- and that is, is Mr. Muhammad guilty? Is he not guilty? Or is he guilty of some other offense than the Commonwealth asks you to find? Then alls you need to do is to go to this pile right here, which is all of the autopsy reports and all of the photographs that were flashed to you. And that's all you'll need to do. The clerk may revise the order you receive them in or perhaps Mr. Ebert when he responds to what I say. But those results, that inch and a half of papers, is what you need.

I have seen prosecutors talk about how an accused person has rendered the deceased to a piece of paper or a picture; and it's very dramatic by way of argument. But it's looking to the result in order to get the conviction that the prosecution wants as opposed to looking at the evidence as the law requires you to do in order to see how or why or under what circumstances the death result was obtained for each of these victims or the injuries.

So let me talk about that. It's our perspective that's the way we suggest respectfully that you must look at it. And in doing so, the law requires you to keep an open mind. Again, how can you keep an open mind when looking at those pictures? But you have to go back and you have to give us an hour or more or so of open mind, and then you can go to the deliberation process and see where the law steers you, where the evidence steers you as opposed to where the result of the shots being fired steers you. And we hope and expect and respectfully request you in the most vigorous fashion to be able to do that.

Now, the law tells you to do that; and Judge Millette has instructed you -- and this is as much for me as you. You may not be able to read it. Let me move it up a little bit closer.

These are just three of several instructions that you'll have, and you'll have them back in the jury room to be able to go over more carefully.


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© 2003 The Washington Post Company

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