Jury Recommends Death for Muhammad’s Role in Sniper Attacks
Muhammad stood with his hands clasped in front of him, emotionless while the jury’s decision was read.
The judge set formal sentencing for Feb. 12, at which time Circuit Court Judge LeRoy Millette Jr. can reduce Muhammad’s sentence to life in prison without parole, but that is unlikely to happen, the Associated Press reported.
The jury concluded that prosecutors proved that Muhammad, 42, posed a dangerous threat and that his crimes were vile. Muhammad was sentenced to death for two separate counts — one for multiple murders within the last three years and the other for murder as part of a terrorist plot.
The jury also recommended that he receive 10 years in prison for conspiracy to murder, the maximum sentence, and three years for using a firearm in a felony.
“As we said from the get-go, the death penalty is reserved for the worst of the worse,” prosecutor Paul Ebert said. “We think Mr. Muhammad fell into that category and we think the jury agreed.”
At the sentencing phase of the trial, defense attorneys tried to portray Muhammad as a family man, showing a home movie of Muhammad with his children. Some witnesses also testified that he and his children were close.
Prosecutor James Willett, however, argued “that person no longer exists.”
“He doesn’t care about children, human life or anything else God put on this earth except himself,” Willett said on Thursday.
The defense had argued that Muhammad suffered from Gulf War Syndrome, but they were unable to present mental health evidence because Muhammad refused to be interviewed by the prosecutors’ psychiatrist.
Prosecutors tried to portray Muhammad as a cruel murderer, presenting evidence from 16 different shootings, including 10 deaths.
When Muhammad and Lee Boyd Malvo were arrested on Oct. 24, 2002, Attorney General John Ashcroft moved the trials to Virginia where the two would be eligible to receive “the ultimate sanction.”
Texas is the only state that has executed more people than Virginia since the death penalty was reinstated in 1976. Virginia is also one of 21 states that allow inmates who commit capital crimes as young as 16 years old to be sentence to death. Malvo was 17 during the shootings, the AP reported.
Marion Lewis, 51, the father of sniper victim Lori Ann Lewis-Rivera, 25, said Monday he was only mildly relieved by the jury’s recommendation.
“Now I have to wait 10 or 15 years for the execution to happen,” he said. “I don’t believe there ever can be any total closure for something like this.”