Jury Reaches Guilty Verdict in Muhammad Trial

Beltway sniper John Allen Muhammad (search) was convicted Monday of two counts of capital murder by a jury that only needed about six hours of deliberation.

Jurors will now decide whether the Army veteran should be sentenced to death or life in prison. The penalty phase was to begin in the afternoon.

The jury concluded that Muhammed used a rifle, a beat-up car and a teenager who idolized him to kill randomly and to terrorize the Washington area during last year's sniper spree.

During the reading of the verdicts, two jurors held hands and two others wept. Muhammad stood impassively, looking straight ahead.

Muhammad, 42, was found guilty of killing Dean Harold Meyers (search), a Vietnam veteran who was cut down by a single bullet that hit him in the head on Oct. 9, 2002, as he filled his tank at a Manassas gas station. Muhammad was also found guilty of conspiracy and use of a firearm in a felony.

"We're very relieved but we did expect a verdict -- there was just so much evidence in this case, we weren't surprised," Larry Myers Jr., the nephew of Dean Harold Myers, told Fox News after the decision was announced.

"God put government in there to do that job and we have the confidence in them to do it. We're not pro-death penalty but we're not against it either. Whatever the verdict is, we're going to be pretty happy with it, I'm sure."

Muhammad and Lee Boyd Malvo (search) were each accused of two murder counts, one alleging they killed more than one person in a three-year period and the other -- the result of a post-Sept. 11 terrorism law -- that they terrorized the Washington, D.C., region in a bid to extort $10 million from the government.

Muhammad was the first person tried under that law.

Malvo, 18, is on trial separately in nearby Chesapeake for the killing of Linda Franklin at a Home Depot in Falls Church. He also could get the death penalty.

In all, the two men were accused of shooting 19 people -- killing 13 and wounding six -- in Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, Maryland, Virginia and the District of Columbia.

The verdict came after three weeks of testimony in which a series of victims and other witnesses graphically -- and often tearfully -- recalled the horror that gripped the Washington area during the sniper attacks.

Ten people were killed in the region and three were wounded, many of them shot as they went about their daily tasks: shopping at a crafts store, buying groceries, mowing the lawn, going to school.

At the height of the killings, the area was so terrified that sports teams were forced to practice indoors, residents were afraid to refuel their cars and teachers tightly drew the blinds of their classroom windows out of fear a school might be targeted.

At one point during the spree, a handwritten letter was found tacked to a tree near the Virginia restaurant where a man was shot, and it included the chilling postscript: "Your children are not safe anywhere at any time." A tarot card left near a shooting outside a school declared "I am God."

The case took a strange twist on the first day of the trial when Muhammad fired his court-appointed attorneys and began representing himself. He delivered a rambling opening statement and cross-examined witnesses for one day before handing the defense back to his lawyers.

For the next three weeks, witness after witness recounted the effects of the attacks in chilling detail. William Franklin recalled being splattered with his wife's blood outside a Home Depot. A retiree described seeing a woman slumped over on a bench, blood pouring from her head. The only child shot during the spree testified: "I put my book bag down and I got shot."

Prosecutors presented no evidence that Muhammad fired the .223-caliber Bushmaster rifle used in the killings, but said it didn't matter. They described Muhammad as the "captain of a killing team" and portrayed him as Malvo's father figure, a stern and controlling man who trained the teenager to do his bidding.

"That is a young man he molded and made an instrument of death and destruction," Prince William County Commonwealth's Attorney Paul Ebert said in closing arguments Thursday.

Ebert said Muhammad came off as a polite man, but that his calm demeanor masked a calculating and sinister side.

"He's the kind of man who could pat you on the back and cut your throat. That is the kind of man who can kill time and time again," the prosecutor said.

The defense said the evidence didn't prove Muhammad directed the shootings or fired the gun in the Meyers slaying. Attorney Peter Greenspun said in his closing statement that prosecutors had "pounded" jurors with gory photos and heartbreaking witness testimony to persuade them to make an emotional decision.

The prosecution provided several key pieces of evidence linking Muhammad to the shootings, including testimony that his DNA was found on the rifle. Prosecutors also presented a stolen laptop discovered in his 1990 Chevrolet Caprice that contained maps of six shooting scenes, each marked with skull-and-crossbones icons.

Prosecutors said the car had been adapted so someone concealed inside the vehicle could fire a rifle through a hole in the trunk. Ballistics tests linked the rifle found in the car to nearly all the shootings.

In Malvo's trial Monday, an FBI agent testified that the suspect refused to identify himself and was defiantly silent when he and Muhammad were arrested in October 2002 at a highway rest stop.

FBI agent Charles Pierce, leader of the team that arrested the pair, described how agents took Malvo and Muhammad by surprise at the rest stop in Maryland, smashing two of the windows in their car. Malvo was asleep in the front seat and Muhammad was in the back, Pierce said.

Pierce said he asked Malvo four times to give his name, and Malvo refused.

"I would characterize it as defiant silence," Pierce said when prosecutor Robert F. Horan Jr. asked him to describe Malvo's attitude.

The judge also barred the jury from hearing the 911 tape of victim Franklin's husband reporting she was shot. In the tape, which was played for the Muhammad jurors, William Franklin moans and breathes heavily and his voice rises as he tries to tell the dispatcher that his wife had been shot in the head.

Judge Jane Marum Roush listened to the tape with jurors out of the courtroom and agreed with the defense that the tape was prejudicial.

Prosecutor Robert F. Horan Jr. had argued that the tape showed "the atrociousness of the crime."

Malvo's attorneys argue that Malvo was insane at the time of the shooting because he was indoctrinated by Muhammad.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.