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Last Updated: Monday, 24 November, 2003, 19:26 GMT
Sniper jurors tell of sleepless nights
BBC News Online's Rachel Clarke
By Rachel Clarke
BBC News Online in Washington

Jurors who said John Allen Muhammad deserved to die for the sniper killings have revealed some of their pain in reaching a decision.

Foreman Jerry Haggerty and juror Heather Best-Teague
Jurors Jerry Haggerty and Heather Best-Teague voted for execution
The seven women and five men gave a unanimous recommendation for the maximum penalty on two charges against Muhammad whom they had earlier found guilty of involvement in the three-week killing spree around Washington.

But at least some struggled with their consciences and several said they had not slept well for days.

Dennis Bowman said he had favoured life imprisonment on Friday when the jury first discussed what punishment should be meted out for the killing of Dean Harold Meyers and the broader sniper terror.

But he reconsidered and - after an entire night of thought on Sunday - switched his vote because he believed Muhammad would still be dangerous in the future.

"He was going to bide his time and somewhere down the road, if it takes 20 years, if he's locked up, put in the deepest hole, sooner or later he's going to fabricate something... and harm someone else."

At first he wondered what good could come by killing one more person when so many had already died, and said he thought of Muhammad's children.

But he concluded: "I got to think of other people's children, other people's families."

Fellow juror Heather Best-Teague also thought of Muhammad's son and two daughters.

"The hardest thing for me, truthfully, [was] the fact that he has children and that I know what it would be like not ever to be able to see mine again," she said, tears welling in her eyes as she mentioned her own sons.

'Worst of worst'

Jury foreman Jerry Haggerty said: "I have not had a full night's sleep since this thing started and I probably won't for a while."

I do not revel in the decision... but I do believe that it is right and proper
Bob Meyers,
Victim's brother
He said it had not been an easy decision but the weight of the evidence taken as a whole meant it was the only one to be taken.

Prosecutor Paul Ebert said he was pleased by the verdict, saying the death penalty was deserved for the "worst of the worst and I think Mr Muhammad falls into that category".

Charlie Deane, police chief of Virginia's Prince William County where Dean Meyers was shot dead last year, said he felt as if those at the trial were acting on behalf of the entire community affected by the sniper terror.

"I hope this provides the victims with some relief," he said.

Dean Meyers' brother Bob said he welcomed the execution recommendation, but only because life imprisonment would seem too little punishment for the crimes committed.

"I do not revel in the decision. It is a weighty one... but I do believe that it is a decision and sentence that is right and proper."

'No revenge'

He said his brother's murder was a wound that would not heal for his family though he said he was not interested in revenge against Muhammad.

"I hate what he did. But I can't say that I hate him," he said outside the courthouse, looking relieved and smiling often as he spoke to reporters.

There was no relief for the defence team, who are now set to be involved in a mandatory appeal.

Jonathan Shapiro said: "Death has been swirling around this courthouse for weeks and weeks. We have no quarrel whatsoever with these very conscientious jurors who applied the law as given to them.

"We do and we will continue to have deep disagreement with a system that sanctions any kind of killing."


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