Potomac News Online | Muhammad pleased by 9/11, prosecutors says

If convicted, sniper suspect John Allen Muhammad may face a list of crimes besides the shooting he is charged with in Prince William at his sentencing hearing.

That list includes murders in Tacoma, Wash., Atlanta, Ga., Wheaton, Md. and Rockville, Md., shootings in Silver Spring, Md., and Baton Rouge, La., a mugging in Arizona, shots fired in Tacoma, Wash., theft of a Bushmaster rifle from a Tacoma store, and forging passports and drivers licenses.

The list was filed by prosecutors Friday, and released Monday by the Circuit Court. If Muhammad is convicted of the Prince William murder, prosecutors will try to prove he committed the other crimes as well, in order to make their case for the death penalty.

Trials in Virginia are divided into two phases — verdict and sentencing. If the defendant is convicted, the jury may hear additional evidence before recommending a sentence.

The filing also alleged “the defendant’s expression of racist and anti-American views, including the sentiment that America got what it deserved” in the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks.

Muhammad, 42, born John Allen Williams, converted to Islam about 17 years ago, and legally changed his name from Williams to Muhammad about a year ago. He is a member of the Nation of Islam, according to articles published on the CNN web site in October 2002.

Also Monday, defense attorneys argued for additional mental or psychological testing of Muhammad and debated jury selection procedures with prosecutors.

Prince William Circuit Court Judge LeRoy F. Millette Jr. had authorized funding for 60 days of defense mental evaluators’ work. Defense attorneys said Monday that though they are already four days beyond that allowance, their doctors required additional tests. They sought a court order to transport Muhammad to Prince William Hospital for various scans and tests.

“Our doctors have been diligently meeting with the defendant … just a few weeks ago, they reached the conclusion additional testing is required … various scans and objective tests that need to take place outside the detention facility,” Shapiro said.

Millette said he would authorize two more weeks of defense doctors’ expenses with further written evidence from doctors that the allowance was necessary.

Defense attorney Jonathan Shapiro defended the newest draft of a jury selection questionnaire, which he had shortened, as Millette had stipulated in an earlier hearing. Shapiro also proposed other defense requests for jury selection procedures. Prosecutors objected to several questionnaire questions, saying they were too invasive of potential jurors’ privacy.

Millette said he would allow a question about potential jurors’ military service, but denied a question asking how often the respondent attended religious services. Millette also struck questions from the questionnaire asking potential jurors about their exposure to press coverage, and ability to sit in an extended trial, saying these questions were better asked in person.

Defense attorneys were denied a jury selection expert.

“From my experience, the attorneys are well qualified to judge. It’s not necessary in any way for the Commonwealth to pay for people to sit in and assist,” Commonwealth’s Attorney Paul B. Ebert said in arguments against the request.

Millette said he was satisfied with the attorneys’ level of experience in selecting jurors.

“The only thing that makes this case different is it’s a capital case, and people, a number of people, were scared … and the court changed venue to take care of that [in jury selection,]” Ebert said.

Muhammad and his alleged accomplice, Lee Boyd Malvo, 18, had their trials moved from Prince William and Fairfax Circuit Courts to Virginia Beach Circuit Court and Chesapeake Circuit Courts, respectively.

Muhammad and Malvo have been charged in relation to 20 shootings last fall, 13 of them fatal. The attacks took place in Virginia, Maryland, Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana and Washington, D.C. In Prince William County, Muhammad was charged with capital murder in the death of Dean Harold Meyers, 53, of Maryland, who was filling his gas tank at the Sunoco station on Sudley Road when he was shot.

A similar series of shootings has gripped the Charleston, West Virginia-area over the past week. Three people have been killed gassing their cars or late-night shopping at convenience stores, shot from a distance.

When asked after the hearing if Kanawha County Sheriffs department had contacted the Northern Virginia sniper task force, Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney Richard A. Conway had no comment.

The Associated Press reported Monday that Kanawha Sheriff Dave Tucker has acknowledged the assistance of investigators from the Washington area sniper task force.

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