Published May 26, 2006
| Associated Press
ROCKVILLE, Md. – John Allen Muhammad was a "pathetic" coward who played god over the innocent people he shot as he hid in the trunk of a car, a prosecutor said Friday as he urged jurors to convict the defendant of six of the sniper killings that terrorized the Washington area in 2002.
Showing the jury photos of the victims, prosecutor Vivek Chopra played off the "Call Me God" message in notes left at shooting scenes and in phone calls to authorities.
"This man considers himself a god," Chopra said. "For the love of money and to salvage some value of a pathetic life wasted, he made godlike decisions for these people."
Muhammad, who is defending himself, closed his defense Friday morning after he called just a handful of witnesses and was prevented from calling others. He chose not to take the stand despite indicating earlier that he might, telling Montgomery County Circuit Judge James Ryan, "Muhammad has no intention of testifying."
He was scheduled to present his own closing later Friday, and sat with his chin in his hands for most of Chopra's closing comments.
Muhammad already has been sentenced to death in Virginia for one of the October 2002 sniper shootings, which left 10 people dead and three wounded. Prosecutors have billed his second trial as insurance in case that conviction is ever overturned.
Chopra reminded jurors that the gun linked forensically to most of the shootings was in Muhammad's Chevrolet Caprice when he and Lee Boyd Malvo were arrested on Oct. 24, 2002. The car had a hole bored in the trunk for a rifle barrel.
"You need to go no further to find premeditation, ladies and gentlemen, than the car, his killing machine, the perfect sniper's nest for a coward," Chopra said.
Malvo, 21, agreed to plead guilty to the same six Maryland murders this week and gave a detailed, inside account of the planning and execution of the sniper shootings.
He testified that Muhammad devised the scheme to terrorize the region, and planned even more killings. Glaring at the man he had considered a father figure, Malvo said: "You took me into your house and you made me a monster."
Muhammad called only one witness Friday morning, a man who saw a person around a white box truck across the street from the gas station where Premkumar Walekar was killed Oct. 3, 2002.
Ryan blocked Muhammad from calling Clyde Wilson, a witness to a September 2002 shooting of two Montgomery, Ala., liquor store employees in which Muhammad and Malvo are suspects. Muhammad said Wilson chased a man from the scene and later told authorities he didn't match a photo of Malvo.
Outside the courtroom, Wilson, who flew up from Atlanta to testify, said he was disappointed he hadn't been able to. "I don't think it's right," he said. "It seems like someone is trying to obfuscate the truth here."
As Muhammad mounted his short defense, many other witnesses he hoped to call chose to ignore his subpoenas, according to an attorney helping Muhammad with the case.
"I've been threatened, I've been chased off people's property, I've had people's subpoenas balled up and thrown away right in front of me," said J. Wyndal Gordon. Ryan said he appreciated Gordon's work on witnesses but didn't take any action to compel reluctant witnesses to appear.