D.C. sniper's execution met with grief, bitterness

CNN News/November 11, 2009

Jarratt, Virginia - Justice fell short with the execution of Washington-area sniper John Allen Muhammad, one of his victims' survivors said after witnessing his death by lethal injection.

Muhammad died silently Tuesday night in a Virginia prison death chamber filled with lawyers, lawmen and his victims' survivors.

After the execution, Steven Moore said he thought about Muhammad's accomplice, Lee Boyd Malvo, who received a life sentence for their crimes.

"Well, myself, I wish Malvo was right there beside Muhammad," said Moore, whose sister, FBI analyst Linda Franklin, was gunned down in Virginia. "They both committed the same crimes. No, I don't feel any closure. I mean, it's ... it ... nothing changes."

Muhammad was the mastermind behind the Washington-area sniper attacks of 2002, which left 10 dead and terrorized the nation's capital. He was declared dead at 9:11 p.m. ET, said Larry Traylor, director of communications for the Virginia Department of Corrections.

"There were no complications," Traylor told reporters outside the Greenville Correctional Center. "Mr. Muhammad was asked if he wished to make a last statement. He did not acknowledge this or make a last statement whatsoever."

In fact, Muhammad, 48, said nothing from the time he entered the death chamber accompanied by guards at 8:58 p.m., Traylor said.

But in a statement read by one of his attorneys, Muhammad still denied he had committed the crimes.

"Mr. Muhammad maintains his innocence in this case, and he always has. He is not remorseful, although he does extend his condolences to the families. What these families went through is tragic in every level. Given the injustices in this case, what Mr. Muhammad went through is equally as tragic," said J. Wyndal Gordon, who was Muhammad's stand-by attorney in his Maryland trial, in which he represented himself.

"They're talking about Muhammad's children, but Linda left children behind, too," Moore said. "She's got a daughter, Katie, and a son, Thomas, that -- Tommy just got back from his second tour in Iraq in the Army. They're not going to see their Mom. So I don't have any sympathy for his family or for his children."

Bob Meyers, whose 53-year-old brother, Dean, was shot dead while pumping gas in Virginia, called Tuesday's execution surreal.

"Watching the life be sapped out of somebody intentionally was very different and an experience I'd never had," he said on CNN's "Larry King Live."

"I'd watched my mother die of natural causes, but that was very different."

He said he might have attained some closure, "but I would say that pretty much was overcome just by the sadness that the whole situation generates in my heart. That he would get to the place where he did what he did, and that it had to come to this."

Meyers said he had forgiven Muhammad for two reasons: "One is that God calls for me to do that in the Bible and the second thing is related to that. If I don't, it rots me from the inside out. It doesn't really hurt John Muhammad or anybody that I have bitterness against."

Among the witnesses to the execution were about a dozen members of the prosecution task force.

"He died very peacefully, much more than most of his victims," said Paul Ebert, the Virginia prosecutor who won the death penalty conviction. "I felt a sense of closure, and I hope that they did, too."

The execution came hours after Virginia Gov. Tim Kaine denied a last-minute clemency request Tuesday for Muhammad.

Kaine's announcement came a day after the Supreme Court declined to intervene in the case.

During three weeks in October 2002, Muhammad and Malvo, then 17, killed 10 people and wounded three, while taunting police with written messages and phoned-in threats and demands.

During two trials and in years of appeals, Muhammad professed his innocence. One of his trials included testimony from Malvo, whose youth excluded him from consideration for the death penalty.

In a written statement issued earlier Tuesday, Muhammad's lawyer Jon Sheldon accused Virginia of racing to "execute a severely mentally ill man, who also suffered from Gulf War syndrome, the day before Veterans Day."

Muhammad, who opted not to select a spiritual adviser, met during the afternoon with his immediate family and lawyers, said Traylor.

He leaves four children and two ex-wives, both of whom appeared Monday on CNN's "Larry King Live."

Muhammad's first wife, Carol Williams, showed a letter in which he asked her to visit him on his execution day. "Carol, I miss my family for the past eight years," he wrote, referring to the time he was incarcerated. "I don't want to be missed the day that these devils murder my innocent black ass."

Asked about his father, Lindbergh Williams said his feelings about the death penalty had not softened with the approach of the execution. "If you commit a crime, you can pay the time," he said.

Asked whether he thought his father regretted what he did, the younger Williams said, "Yes, I really do."

Mildred Muhammad, the sniper's second ex-wife and the mother of three of his children, told CNN on Monday that she last saw him in 2001 at a custody hearing and had not sought to visit him in prison.

"I had emotionally detached from John when I asked him for a divorce," she said. "And my emotions were severed when he said that you have become my enemy and, as my enemy, I will kill you."

CNN's Bill Mears contributed to this report from Jarratt, Virginia.

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