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2003: Washington sniper convicted
An ex-soldier who served in the Gulf War has been found guilty of at least one of the Washington sniper killings in October last year.

John Allen Muhammad, 42, may now face the death penalty.

He was convicted of shooting dead Dean Meyers at a petrol station in Manassas, Virginia, on 9 October 2002, and murdering "at least one other person".

After just six and a half hours the jury at a court in Virginia Beach, Virginia, found him guilty on all four counts of murder, terrorism, conspiracy and a firearms charge.

Two of the jury members were crying as the verdict was read out, but Muhammad showed little emotion.

New law

The terrorism charge was brought under a new law enacted by Virginia following the 9/11 attacks on New York and Washington in 2001. Under the law, terrorists can be given the death penalty.

During the three-week killing spree last October, 10 people died and three were wounded.

The victims were chosen at random, while they shopped, mowed lawns or put petrol in their cars at garages.

The killer played a cat-and-mouse game with the police, leaving a letter at the scene of one of the shootings demanding a $10 million payment from the US government and asking them to "Call me God".

The area was so terrorised that sports teams practised indoors and people kept their heads down or hid in their cars when they used petrol pumps.

During the trial, prosecutors portrayed Muhammad as a cold-blooded killer who trained his 17-year-old accomplice, Lee Boyd Malvo, as an expert sniper.

The pair specially modified a car to allow shooting through a hole cut in the boot. They were arrested while sleeping in the car in late October.

Malvo, now 18, is on trial separately in nearby Chesapeake, accused of murdering FBI analyst Linda Franklin, shot dead on 14 October 2002 in Falls Church, Virginia.

His lawyers are arguing he was brainwashed by Muhammad, whom he looked up to as a father figure.

Death penalty

Muhammad has throughout denied he was involved, arguing that the case against him was circumstantial.

Relatives of the victims welcomed the verdict, and some urged the jury to decide in favour of the death penalty.

"I consider justice to have been served," said Bob Meyers, the brother of Dean Meyers, the victim at the heart of the trial.

"I believe that capital punishment is an appropriate response in certain crimes, and I must say that I can't think of too many more heinous crimes than this one."

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Watch/Listen
John Allen Muhammad
John Allen Muhammad is known to be an expert marksman

Two jury members cry during sniper sentencing


In Context
Lee Boyd Malvo was also found guilty of murder and terrorism in December 2003. He was sentenced to life in prison without parole.

In March 2004, a judge formally handed down the death sentence to John Allen Muhammad for his role in the killings.

During the sentencing hearing, Muhammad continued to deny he was involved.

Under Virginia state law his death penalty will automatically go to appeal, and the actual date of his execution may be some time off.

Both men could face further charges from other states in relation to other murders.

Stories From 17 Nov


 
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