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Last Updated: Monday, 17 November, 2003, 22:12 GMT
Sniper verdict 'brings justice for victims'
BBC News Online's Rachel Clarke
By Rachel Clarke
BBC News Online in Washington

Washington sniper John Allen Muhammad showed little emotion as four guilty verdicts were read out. But a sense of relief was evident among those victimised by his shooting spree.

Bob Meyers, whose brother Dean was killed in the Washington sniper attacks
Bob Meyers and other relatives want Muhammad executed
Relatives of those killed and local officials from the areas terrorised in October 2002 were present to hear the verdicts read out.

And while the case heard in the Virginia Beach courtroom could be only the first in a series of trials connected to the attacks around the US capital and other shootings, there seemed to be a sense of closure.

So far, Muhammad has been found guilty only of the murder of Dean Meyers and of "at least one other person".

But relatives of some of the other people killed in three weeks of seemingly random attacks travelled to southern Virginia to see the verdicts handed down on the man they believe was also responsible for their losses.

"I consider justice to have been served," said Bob Meyers, whose brother was gunned down at a petrol station in Manassas, Virginia.

'Heinous' crime

The remaining question for the jury - whether Muhammad should be sentenced to life in prison or execution - has already been decided by many relatives.

"I believe that capital punishment is an appropriate response in certain crimes," Mr Meyers said.

"I can't think of too many more heinous crimes than this one."

I hope that today's verdict is the beginning of the end of what was the worst of times for our region
Doug Duncan,
civic leader
Vijay Walekar, whose brother Premkumar was killed at a petrol station in Maryland six days before Mr Meyers, agreed.

"At this time I feel he should get the death penalty. I think that he has done a lot of crimes, and killed a lot of people," he said.

Doug Duncan, executive of Montgomery County, Maryland, where Dean Meyers lived and where five of the fatal killings took place, also said the case "calls out for the death penalty".

He praised the work of those who tracked and captured Muhammad and his accomplice Lee Malvo and added a wish for communities to be able to move on.

"I hope that today's verdict is the beginning of the end of what was the worst of times for our region and yet brought out the best in our residents and neighbours."

New law tested

The high-profile case also brought comment from White House spokesman Scott McClellan: "Hopefully the jury's decision will help bring some comfort to the families whose lives were senselessly taken and those who were injured."

The verdicts were not a surprise, but it was a first success for a new Virginia state law brought in after the 11 September 2001 attacks that can lead to death sentences for those convicted of terrorism.

"The anti-terrorism law worked," Virginia Attorney General Jerry Kilgore said.

"The snipers terrorised an entire state. People were afraid to go to the mall, afraid to take their kids to school, afraid to pump gas."

The BBC's Adam Brookes
"The jury will now decide if he will be sentenced to death"

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