Jury Finds Muhammad Guilty in Sniper Trial
Tuesday, May 30, 2006; 11:05 PM
ROCKVILLE, Md. -- John Allen Muhammad was convicted of six of the Washington-area sniper killings Tuesday after the prosecution's star witness, Muhammad's young protege, portrayed him as the mastermind of an audacious terror scheme in which phase two would have been bombings against children.
Muhammad, 45, is already under a death sentence in Virginia for a killing there. The most he can get for the six murders committed in Maryland is life in prison without parole.
The jury took slightly more than four hours to convict him after a four-week trial in which he acted as his own attorney.
As the verdict was read, Muhammad stood grim-faced, his arms folded across chest. He was led out of the courtroom, pausing to ask the judge, "Your honor, may I speak?" The judge answered, "No, sir," and Muhammad was taken away.
Ten people in all were killed and three were wounded in Virginia, Maryland and Washington, D.C., in the string of shootings that gripped the metropolitan area with fear.
The trial marked the first time Lee Boyd Malvo testified against the man prosecutors say was his mentor and manipulator. And Muhammad's cross-examination of Malvo marked one of the most dramatic moments.
During two days of testimony last week, Malvo, 21, gave the first inside account of the shootings and described Muhammad's elaborate plans for a reign of terror.
According to Malvo, Muhammad had a two-phase plan _ six shootings a day for a month, followed by a wave of bombings of schools, school buses and children's hospitals. Malvo said that when he asked Muhammad why, the older man replied: "For the sheer terror of it _ the worst thing you can do to people is aim at their children."
Muhammad hoped to extort $10 million from authorities and use the money to set up a school in Canada to teach homeless children how to use guns and explosives and use violence to shut down other cities, Malvo said.
One of the attorneys who helped Muhammad with his defense said he was disappointed but not surprised by the verdict. Muhammad was blocked from presenting evidence he thought proved he was framed.
"When you give the jury only one side of the story, you can't expect them to do anything other than what they have done," said attorney Jai Bonner.
Juror Scott Stearns, the White House correspondent for Voice of America, said Malvo's testimony was particularly compelling. He noted that Muhammad frequently ended his questioning of witnesses by asking if they had eyewitness knowledge of his guilt. That question was glaringly absent from Muhammad's cross-examination of Malvo, he said.