Jurors recommend death for Muhammad - KLTV.com - Tyler, Longview, Jacksonville |ETX News

11-24-03

Jurors recommend death for Muhammad

VIRGINIA BEACH, Virginia – Jurors on Monday recommended John Allen Muhammad be sentenced to death for orchestrating last year's sniper shootings in the Washington area.

Jurors recommended death for two of four counts Muhammad was convicted of last week in the shooting death of Dean Harold Meyers: terrorism and capital murder.

Muhammad also received a 10-year sentence recommendation for conspiracy and a three-year sentence recommendation for use of a firearm in the commission of a felony.

Muhammad showed no sign of emotion as the decisions were read about 10:50 a.m. Monday, less than two hours after jurors reconvened for a second day of deliberations. They had deliberated for about four hours Friday.

Judge LeRoy Millette set a formal sentencing date of Feb. 12. Under Virginia law, Millette has the final word and can reduce the jury's recommended sentence.

Condemned prisoners in Virginia have the choice of dying by lethal injection or in the electric chair.

Prosecutors argued for death

Last week the same jury convicted the 42-year-old Muhammad of the October 9, 2002, killing of Meyers outside a Manassas, Virginia, service station.

Meyers was one of 10 people killed in the October 2002 sniper killings. Three people were wounded but survived the attacks.

Prosecutors argued that Muhammad and Lee Boyd Malvo -- Muhammad's alleged accomplice currently on trial in nearby Chesapeake -- acted as a team, with Malvo as the trigger man in most of last year's sniper shootings.

Malvo, 18, is on trial for the October 14, 2002, slaying of Linda Franklin in the parking lot of a Fairfax, Virginia store. Malvo has pleaded not guilty and his lawyers argue that he was brainwashed by Muhammad.

The jury's decision will serve as a recommendation, which the judge can then use to impose a sentence. The judge can reduce the recommended sentence but not increase it. Millette is expected to follow the jury's decision.

Before recessing last Friday, jurors asked Millette two questions: What to do if they could not reach a unanimous decision, and if deliberations could continue Tuesday if needed.

Responding to the first question, Millette said after six weeks of trial but only a few hours of deliberations it would be too early for jurors to decide they could not reach a unanimous decision.

On Thursday prosecutors asked the jury to sentence Muhammad to death after defense lawyers tried to humanize their client by showing his home movies.

Assistant prosecutor James Willett said the friendly, smiling Muhammad jurors saw in the movies "is already dead." Prosecutor Paul Ebert said life means little to Muhammad.

Muhammad's defense pleaded with jurors to spare his life.

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