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No verdict today in Muhammad trial, back on Monday


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I can't believe it is going to take more then 4 hours :doh:


No Verdict Reached in Muhammad Trial

Jurors to Resume Deliberations Monday

By Tamara Jones

Washington Post Staff Writer

Friday, November 14, 2003; 1:13 PM

VIRGINIA BEACH, Nov. 14--The jury began deliberations Friday in the trial of John Allen Muhammad, weighing murder charges that could bring the death penalty for the accused sniper if convicted.

The seven-woman, five-man panel deliberated for four hours before Prince William County Circuit Court Judge LeRoy F. Millette Jr. adjourned court for the weekend.

Deliberations will resume at 9 a.m. Monday.

The jury asked at one point for a tape-recorder to hear audio of a 911 call, Millette said.

The jurors include a nurse, a bartender, a hardware store clerk, a biomedical technician and a retired Navy pilot. There is one black woman on the panel; the other 11 jurors are white.

The jury is not sequestered.

"The case is now in your hands," Millette told the jurors. "Good luck."

Jurors must decide whether to accept the prosecution's argument that the 42-year-old Gulf War veteran was "captain of a killing team" that randomly shot strangers in a calculated plot to extort $10 million from the government. Although a single slaying -- the Oct. 9, 2002, slaying of Dean H. Meyers at a gas station in Prince William County -- forms the genesis of the two capital murder charges against Muhammad, prosecutors outlined 16 shootings they alleged are linked to Muhammad and his teenaged accomplice, Lee Boyd Malvo.

Muhammad has pleaded not guilty; Malvo's defense team is pursuing an insanity defense at his ongoing capital murder trial in nearby Chesapeake.

The death penalty is an option only if jurors agree that Muhammad committed at least one other murder besides Meyers's in the past three years, or killed as part of a plot to terrorize the public at large and influence or intimidate the government. Besides acquittal, jurors also have the choice of finding Muhammad guilty of first-degree murder, which would not carry the automatic sentence of death or life in prison.

Over the course of five weeks, prosecutors conjured a ghoulish collage of evidence: bullet fragments fished from clotted blood in a body bag; a coroner's probe following the trajectory of a bullet through a shattered face; a victim's brain matter on the bumper of her car.

From the opening moments of the trial, the tone was chilling, as prosecutors removed Exhibit 1 -- a 34 1/2-inch Bushmaster .223 rifle -- from a long box to prop in a bipod atop the prosecution table, the barrel facing the front of the courtroom where jurors sat. Prosecutors portrayed Muhammad and Malvo as a cold and calculating urban sniper team, prowling the region in a decrepit blue Chevrolet Caprice rigged to become a "killing machine," the trunk fashioned into a lair where a gunman could watch and wait, belly down, for an unsuspecting victim to lock in the crosshairs.

Those victims, Prince William Assistant Commonwealth's Attorney Richard A. Conway recalled in the prosecution's two-hour closing argument, were "innocent people going about their daily lives" when they were gunned down by a killer unseen. Thumbprint pictures of those victims, their faces vibrant and alive, smiling, were mounted on a large poster board the prosecution used to illustrate the timeline of 16 shootings they allege were the work of Muhammad and Malvo.

The tiny snapshots -- of young mothers, doting grandfathers, a beloved uncle, a charismatic businessman -- were in sharp contrast to the sheaf of larger photographs entered into evidence and enlarged on the courtroom projection screen, the gruesome images of yellow-taped crime scenes, of shiny autopsy tables, of bodies contorted in the poses of sudden, violent death. But those photos, defense attorney Peter D. Greenspun told the jury, were but an "inch and a half stack of papers" that represented the "results" of the alleged crimes, not the evidence to be weighed in determining a verdict.

The defense had fought vehemently to prevent much of that evidence from reaching the jury, motions that were largely overruled by Millette. Over vigorous, repeated defense objections, Millette allowed jurors to hear the tapes of several 911 emergency calls for help made after the shootings in question.

While Millette said the calls were germane in proving one of the capital charges against Muhammad -- terrorism by intimidating the public at large -- Greenspun argued that playing the tapes was merely an attempt to emotionally manipulate the jury.

Jurors heard in those calls the confusion of an old man who went to mail a letter and saw a woman's head blown open before him; the shock of a victim shot in the gut by a robber who uttered no demand or warning; the wails of a husband kneeling over his slain wife on a parking garage floor.

It was the latter call, made by the husband of victim Linda Franklin, that brought a few jurors to tears. And with the searing emotions in this trial came science, cool and detached.

Jurors learned of the twists and grooves and so-called "lands" inside the barrel of a gun, and the impressions they would leave on a .223 bullet rocketing from the chamber at a typical speed of 2,000 mph. They heard from medical examiners and trauma surgeons describing the "lead snowstorm" pattern fragments formed when that type of bullet exploded inside a human body.

Expert witnesses linked bullets and fragments from 16 shootings to the Bushmaster investigators found in Muhammad's car after he and Malvo were arrested in the Caprice at a Maryland rest stop Oct. 24, 2002.

But no one ever saw any shot fired from the Caprice, Greenspun reminded jurors, and most of the DNA and fingerprint evidence offered in the case was traced to Malvo, not Muhammad.

The prosecution earlier told jurors that it was Muhammad's DNA found on a pen barrel dropped in the woods near one shooting, his voice on an extortion call to authorities, his image on a security video from the store where investigators found pink lined paper, cartoon baggies and press-on stars that matched those used on a ransom note tacked to a tree behind another gas station where another victim was gunned down.

With no eyewitnesses or confession, prosecutors were forced to build their case on circumstantial evidence.

Muhammad, who stunned the court with his decision to represent himself when the trial began, only to reinstate his lawyers after two days, did not testify in his own defense -- a choice that Millette instructed jurors they could not consider when weighing a verdict. And with the burden of proof resting on the prosecution's shoulders, the defense made no effort to offer any alibi witnesses or alternative theories of the crime.

The case against Muhammad, argued Greenspun, was built on "suspicion, speculation, innuendo and inference in the absence of proof."

While not offering any concrete motive behind the shooting spree, prosecutors suggested that Muhammad's bitter loss of his children in a custody battle could have been the driving force, with Muhammad allegedly planning to make his ex-wife the ultimate target. Malvo's attorneys maintain that the Jamaican teen, who was 17 at the time, was a neglected, fatherless child easily brainwashed by Muhammad and molded for murder.

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