Muhammad Is Returned to Pr. William Jail

The Washington Post/November 26, 2003
By Josh White

Virginia Beach -- John Allen Muhammad was transferred back to his solitary cell at the Prince William County jail Tuesday, less than 24 hours after a jury sentenced him to death for orchestrating the Washington area sniper shootings.

Col. Glendell Hill, supervisor of the Prince William County jail in Manassas, said Muhammad arrived about 5:20 a.m. and was taken to the same cell where he was held before his six-week capital murder trial. Muhammad, who has had run-ins with his jailers in Prince William, is being held under the highest security.

Hill said he has seen no change in Muhammad's behavior since he left Prince William for Virginia Beach in early October. Muhammad will stay in the jail until at least Feb. 12, when Circuit Court Judge LeRoy F. Millette Jr. is scheduled to either confirm Muhammad's death sentence or reduce it to life in prison without parole.

"I haven't noticed any change at all," said Hill, who also is the county's sheriff-elect. "He's just very quiet, which is not unusual."

A Virginia Beach jury sentenced Muhammad to two death sentences and an additional 13 years in prison for the slaying of Dean H. Meyers at a Prince William gas station Oct. 9, 2002. The jury decided that Meyers's killing was one in a series and part of a terror plot to extort $10 million. Jurors said they chose the death penalty because the crimes were vile and because they thought Muhammad would pose a threat to society even if confined to a prison cell for the rest of his life.

During the trial, jurors heard evidence that Muhammad had tried to escape from the Prince William jail and had fashioned a sharp-edged tool out of a plastic spoon -- events that led jail guards to fear him. Jurors said they were concerned that Muhammad would try again.

"You want life. But there were several murders, and it wasn't going to stop," said juror Rebecca L. Bee, 42. She said she felt that even in prison, Muhammad would kill again. "How would I live with this if he committed another murder?"

Hill said that problems with Muhammad have been limited to a few incidents and that new policies ensure his safety and that of the jail staff.

"We're concerned about him, and we are cautious when we deal with Mr. Muhammad," Hill said. "He is a maximum-security prisoner, and he requires our special attention."

Muhammad will remain in his jail cell for the next two months while Prince William probation officials prepare a pre-sentencing report for Millette to consider.

Although most capital defendants in Prince William participate in lengthy interviews for the report -- during which they often discuss their backgrounds, their crimes and their feelings of remorse or regret -- it is unclear what the probation officers will be able to draw out of Muhammad. Since his arrest, he has been unwilling to answer questions about the case and refused to meet with a forensic psychiatrist hired by prosecutors to evaluate him.

By deciding against an interview with the expert, Muhammad prevented his attorneys from presenting mental health evidence at his sentencing hearing. Instead, jurors heard from a parade of old friends, lovers and relatives about how Muhammad was once a doting father and dedicated family man.

What struck several jurors about the case was the level of involvement of Muhammad's alleged co-conspirator, Lee Boyd Malvo, who is on trial in Chesapeake on murder charges in the Oct. 14, 2002, slaying of Linda Franklin outside the Seven Corners Home Depot. Malvo has pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity, claiming that Muhammad brainwashed him and led him on the rampage of terror.

Malvo was ever present at Muhammad's trial, appearing in photographs and witness testimony, and he was in the courtroom a few times so jurors could see him and witnesses could identify him.

Jurors said they believe the two acted as a sniper team, working together to kill 10 people and wound six others. Some jurors said they did not believe that Muhammad shot Meyers, but they said his role was enough to warrant a guilty verdict and a death sentence.

"There was evidence on top of evidence on top of evidence," said juror Heather Best-Teague, 31.

Juror Dennis J. Bowman, 51, said the panel found that Muhammad played a role in all 10 homicides the prosecutors presented. He said Muhammad planned and helped to carry out the shootings.

Bowman said he would not have changed his mind if he had known during the trial that Malvo has confessed to pulling the trigger in most of the shootings, because the pair acted as "two parts of a killing machine."

Should Millette uphold the death sentence, Muhammad's case will be automatically appealed to the Virginia Supreme Court.

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