Washington-Area Sniper Seeks to Halt Death-Row Appeal

Convicted sniper John Allen Muhammad has written a letter to prosecutors seeking their assistance in putting an end to his legal appeals from death row.

In a two-page letter obtained by the Associated Press on Tuesday, Muhammad told the Virginia Attorney General's Office that he is waiving all rights to appeal his 2003 conviction and death sentence for the sniper killings in 2002 that terrorized the Washington, D.C., region.

Muhammad says in the letter that he has tried without success to stop efforts by his defense lawyers, and that he is counting on the attorney general to assist him.

"I've written to you all because I know you will make sure this letter will get to the right people — so that you can murder this innocent black man," Muhammad wrote in the letter, dated April 23.

In the letter, Muhammad writes in the margin, "Muhammad innocent and on death row." He does not state why he wants to end the appeal but writes that he has informed his appeals lawyers of his desires, and that any appeals they have filed "have been done against mine will."

Last month, Muhammad's appellate lawyers did indeed file a petition asking a federal judge to overturn Muhammad's conviction and death sentence in a Virginia court.

Muhammad and his teenage accomplice, Lee Boyd Malvo, were convicted in 2003 of a random killing spree that left 10 people dead in Maryland, Virginia and the District of Columbia over a three-week span in October 2002.

Muhammad was sentenced to death, and Malvo was sentenced to life in prison.

Muhammad's appellate lawyer, Jonathan Sheldon, declined comment. In their recent appeal, the lawyers cited evidence of brain damage that may render Muhammad incompetent to make legal decisions on his own behalf.

Specifically, they cite evidence that Muhammad's brain suffered abnormalities that are associated with schizophrenia and other disorders. As such, they argue that Muhammad should never have been allowed to represent himself, as he did for a disastrous two-day stretch at the start of his Virginia trial.

Muhammad also represented himself in a subsequent trial in Maryland, in which he was also convicted and sentenced to life in prison.

Katherine Baldwin, a lawyer in the attorney general's office who is representing Virginia in the case, wrote a letter Tuesday saying she had received Muhammad's letter on Monday and was forwarding it to the defense lawyers and the judge "for whatever action you deem appropriate."

Tucker Martin, a spokesman for the attorney general's office, did not immediately return calls seeking comment Tuesday.