Monday, October 20, 2003; 3:00 PM
Accused sniper John Allen Muhammad has decided to represent himself at his capital murder trial in Virginia Beach. Prince William County Circuit Court Judge LeRoy F. Millette Jr. made the announcement after a 25-minute bench conference with Muhammad and his attorneys this morning.
"Muhammad's decision to represent himself is all about control. For reasons that will be apparent if he gives an opening, Muhammad has decided to take center stage and dictate his own fate," said criminal defense lawyer Steven Benjamin in an interview with washingtonpost.com.
Benjamin, a partner in Benjamin & DesPortes, P.C., was online Monday, Oct. 20 at 3 p.m. ET to explain today's proceedings.
Benjamin limits his practice to criminal defense and appeals cases. His experience includes argument before the U.S. Supreme Court; the defense of multiple cases of capital murder; and the exoneration of the wrongfully accused.
The first sniper case to come to trial in the series of shootings that left 10 people dead and three wounded focuses on the Oct. 9, 2002, slaying of civil engineer Dean H. Meyers. The 53-year-old Gaithersburg bachelor was shot in the head as he pumped gas at a service station outside Manassas on his long commute home.
A transcript follows.
Editor's Note: Washingtonpost.com moderators retain editorial control over Live Online discussions and choose the most relevant questions for guests and hosts; guests and hosts can decline to answer questions.
Arlington, Va.: In your opinion, do you think that the decision to allow Muhammad to defend himself will make it more difficult for the jury to convict him if he displays abnormal behavior and tendancies?
Steven Benjamin: No. His behavior may even make it easier for the jury to convict.
Washington, D.C.: Mr. Benjamin,