By Jerry Markon
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, September 17, 2009
A Northern Virginia judge Wednesday set Nov. 10 as the execution date for sniper John Allen Muhammad, whose wave of random shootings terrified the Washington region in 2002.
Prince William County Circuit Court Judge Mary Grace O'Brien chose the date during a teleconference with lawyers in the case Wednesday morning, said Jon Sheldon, an attorney for Muhammad. He said Muhammad plans to ask Virginia Gov. Timothy M. Kaine (D) for clemency and to file an appeal with the U.S. Supreme Court, his last remaining legal options after a federal appellate court rejected his latest appeal last month.
If those efforts fail, Muhammad probably will be strapped to a gurney at the Greensville Correctional Center in Jarratt, administered a series of three drugs and pronounced dead, which is Virginia's method of executing prisoners by lethal injection. Virginia inmates can choose lethal injection or the electric chair, but under state law, inmates who make no choice automatically die by lethal injection -- and most executions are carried out by that method.
Muhammad was convicted in 2003 and sentenced to death for killing Dean H. Meyers near Manassas in October 2002, one of 10 sniper slayings that month. His accomplice, Lee Boyd Malvo, was sentenced to life in prison without parole in a separate trial for a sniper killing in Fairfax County.
A variety of state and federal courts have rejected Muhammad's appeals, with the latest being the Richmond-based U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit. A three-judge panel of that court turned down Muhammad's appeal Aug. 7. His attorneys had made a number of arguments, including that he should not have been allowed to represent himself at the start of his trial and that prosecutors failed to turn over key documents to the defense.
The judges rejected those arguments, but they chided Virginia prosecutors for not giving Muhammad's Virginia attorneys evidence including 30,000 pages of documents that were later turned over to his attorneys in Maryland, where he was found guilty in 2006 of six more slayings. Among the documents were witness statements giving conflicting accounts about the killing of Pascal Charlot in the District on Oct. 3, 2002.
The sniper slayings gripped the Washington region that month, as Muhammad and Malvo prowled Maryland, the District and Virginia in an old Chevy and randomly picked out 13 people and shot them. Ten died doing the most routine tasks -- mowing lawns, unloading shopping baskets, pumping gas. After-school activities were canceled, and people changed their daily routines.