Youngest Victim Takes the Stand

In emotional testimony, Myrtha Charlot Cinada recalled learning from her husband that her father had been killed.
In emotional testimony, Myrtha Charlot Cinada recalled learning from her husband that her father had been killed. (By Susan Biddle -- The Washington Post)
By Eric Rich and Jennifer Lenhart
Washington Post Staff Writers
Wednesday, May 10, 2006

He was just a boy in October 2002, an eighth-grader waiting one morning outside Benjamin Tasker Middle School in Bowie, when a sniper's bullet pierced his chest and burrowed through his stomach and spleen.

Yesterday, Iran Brown appeared in a Montgomery County courtroom -- taller, thinking of college now, maybe even Duke -- to confront John Allen Muhammad, who is on trial in six Montgomery sniper slayings.

"I was in pain," Brown told jurors evenly during the third day of testimony, describing the moments after he was shot. "I couldn't breathe, and I was scared."

The terror that gripped the Washington area that October seemed to intensify with his shooting Oct. 7. "Today it went down to the children," Charles A. Moose, then Montgomery's police chief, said at the time. "Someone is so mean-spirited that they shot a child. . . . I guess it's getting to be really, really personal now."

Muhammad, 45, is sentenced to death in Virginia. Lee Boyd Malvo, alleged to be his accomplice, is serving a life term. Malvo is discussing a possible plea with Maryland prosecutors and could testify against Muhammad, sources familiar with the discussions have said.

The October sniper shootings killed 10 people in the Washington area and wounded three. Although Muhammad is on trial in the Montgomery killings, much of yesterday's testimony focused on shootings in other jurisdictions. Circuit Court Judge James L. Ryan has allowed evidence from shootings outside Montgomery because of their similarities.

Brown testified that his aunt had just dropped him off at the Prince George's County school the morning he was shot. He was waiting for the doors to open when he felt the impact. He fell to the ground and cried out for his aunt, who had not pulled away. She rushed him to a nearby clinic. "I told her I loved her," he said.

Muhammad, who is acting as his own attorney, asked him no questions.

Brown declined to speak after the proceeding, but his uncle questioned the value of the Montgomery prosecution.

"How many times do we have to relive this nightmare?" Jerome Brown asked reporters. Of his nephew, he said, "I know he doesn't want to have to be here."

Montgomery State's Attorney Douglas F. Gansler has said that prosecutions in Maryland could provide closure for victims there and that convictions could ensure that Muhammad remains in prison if his Virginia death sentence is overturned.

Another sniper victim, Caroline Sewall, testified yesterday about the moment she was shot while loading parcels into a van in Fredericksburg. "I dropped to the ground and prayed that God would let me live so I could take care of my kids," she said.

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