Death Penalty Phase Begins for John Muhammad
The death penalty phase is underway in the trial of convicted sniper John Muhammad. Trying to convince jurors to vote for life after a conviction for a heinous crime is always difficult. It is even more so when the defense does not acknowledge committing the crime during the guilt phase. Here's how Muhammad's lawyers plan to proceed:
Jonathan Shapiro, one of Muhammad's attorneys, pleaded for his client's life with a short, somber statement to jurors. Shapiro said that nothing the attorneys say can excuse the crimes, that the defense will explain how Muhammad's life experiences affected him.
Shapiro said evidence will show that Muhammad took the loss of his children "extremely hard" and that he used to live a productive life as a "solid, hard-working guy" who was very attentive to his children. He asked jurors to find something in Muhammad worth saving. "You will put him in a box of one sort or the other," Shapiro said. "One is made of concrete, and one is made of pine."
On one capital count, Muhammad was convicted under Virginia's new terrorism statute. Years of appeals will follow, first in the state and then in the federal courts, over whether this law is unconstitutionally vague and whether it was intended to apply to the kind of crime spree Muhammad and Malvo engaged in. Also, under the terrorism statute, the community at large is the victim. We think that makes everyone in Virginia ineligible to sit on the jury. Another grounds for appeal.
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