ROCKVILLE, Md. – Jurors who spent the past four weeks listening to John Allen Muhammad question witnesses and argue that he was framed for the Washington-area sniper attacks began their own deliberations Tuesday morning.
Muhammad, acting as his own attorney at his second trial in the deadly shootings, told the jury in his closing argument Friday that he was only in the Washington area to search for his ex-wife and children. He said government agencies planted evidence and collaborated to pin the crime on him and teenager Lee Boyd Malvo.
"My case is based on one thing. It is very simple. They lied on two innocent men," Muhammad said.
Prosecutors told the jury that Muhammad carefully planned and carried out the shootings with teenage accomplice Lee Boyd Malvo, who implicated his former mentor for the first time on the stand.
Both men had previously been convicted in attacks in Virginia, and Muhammad was sentenced to death there. In Maryland, Muhammad is being tried in six of the 10 deadly shootings. Maryland prosecutors said Malvo had agreed to a plea deal.
Last week, Malvo gave a chilling account of Muhammad's planning for the October 2002 shooting spree.
Muhammad planned two phases, Malvo said, the first shooting six people a day for a month, the second targeting children and police with explosives. He ultimately wanted to extort $10 million from authorities and use the money to teach homeless children how to use guns and explosives at a Canadian compound, Malvo said.
Malvo also said that Muhammad was the shooter in five of the six Maryland murders.
Prosecutors called eyewitnesses who said they saw Muhammad and his Chevrolet Caprice near shooting scenes. Forensic experts said his DNA was on evidence that included parts of the Bushmaster rifle found in the Caprice when he and Malvo were arrested. Ballistics experts matched the .223-caliber bullets used in the murders to the Bushmaster.
Muhammad seized on inconsistencies during his cross-examination but offered little proof for his conspiracy theory and no motive. His defense was also hampered by his failure to follow proper courtroom procedure and the reluctance of witnesses to testify for him.
Ten people were killed and three wounded during the three weeks of shootings in October 2002. Muhammad and Malvo were arrested Oct. 24, 2002, as they slept in the Caprice at a western Maryland rest stop. Behind the back seat was the Bushmaster. Authorities discovered a hole bored in trunk of the Caprice, allowing a shooter to lie inside to fire.
A Virginia jury convicted Muhammad of a sniper shooting in Manassas, Va., and Malvo was given a life term for another Virginia shooting. Maryland prosecutors say their case is insurance if Muhammad's initial conviction is overturned.
The two men also are suspected in shootings in Alabama, Arizona, Georgia, Louisiana and Washington state.