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Muhammad Jury Ends Day of Deliberations

November 14, 2003

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (AP) _ The jury in the trial of sniper suspect John Allen Muhammad failed to reach a verdict Friday after deliberating for four hours. Deliberations will resume Monday.

Circuit Judge LeRoy F. Millette Jr. sent the jurors home at 1 p.m., the normal time the judge has adjourned court on Fridays.

The panel of seven women and five men began deliberations at 9:05 a.m.

``The case is now in your hands,″ Circuit Judge LeRoy F. Millette Jr. told the jury.

The jury came back at noon with a request for a tape recorder, which would allow them to listen to 911 tapes and calls purportedly made by the sniper suspects to enter negotiations with police.

Millette granted the request, despite defense lawyers’ concerns that it might lead the jury to focus disproportionate attention on the tapes.

``Anything in evidence they should have the opportunity to review,″ Millette said.

But court officials were not able to find a suitable recorder before court adjourned at 1 p.m.

Prosecutors said in closing statements that Muhammad, 42, and fellow suspect Lee Boyd Malvo, 18, formed a ``sniper-spotter killing team″ and were ``at war″ when they allegedly shot 13 people in the Washington region last October.

Muhammad is accused of killing Dean Harold Meyers on Oct. 9, 2002 at a Manassas gas station.

Throughout the trial, prosecutors have tried to portray Muhammad as a father figure to the younger Malvo, a stern and controlling man who trained the teenager to do his bidding.

They have presented no direct evidence that Muhammad fired the Bushmaster rifle used in the crime, but say it didn’t matter. Malvo was so deeply under Muhammad’s sway, they say, that both are equally guilty.

``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.

Malvo is on trial in nearby Chesapeake for the Oct. 14 shooting of Linda Franklin at a Home Depot in Falls Church. He also faces a possible death sentence if convicted.

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

In his opening statement, Malvo attorney Craig Cooley said Thursday that Malvo and Muhammad planned a Utopian society in Canada, populated by 140 children who weren’t ``tainted″ by society.

He said Muhammad planned to kill his ex-wife, Mildred, because she took custody of the couple’s three children. The sniper shootings were meant to create a cover for the murder of Mildred Muhammad, Cooley said, since police would assume she was another sniper victim and not investigate Muhammad as a possible suspect.

Fairfax County Commonwealth’s Attorney Robert Horan said he planned to start his case with the Franklin and Meyers shootings when the trial reconvenes Monday.

Jurors in Muhammad’s case will have to decide if he is a ``principal in the first degree″ to convict him under a multiple-murder charge. He is also charged with capital murder under a terrorism law.

Muhammad, who began the trial as his own lawyer before handing the case back to his attorneys, sat stoically at the defense table as prosecutors pointed at him and accused him of directing a ``sniper-spotter killing team.″

Jabbing a finger at Muhammad, 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,″ Ebert said.

But in closing arguments, Muhammad attorney Peter Greenspun said prosecutors had ``pounded″ jurors with gory photos and emotional witness testimony to convince them to make an emotional decision.

He implored the jury to look at the evidence, which he said doesn’t prove Muhammad directed the shootings or fired the gun in the Meyers slaying. Greenspun tried to cast doubt on several witnesses, questioning their credibility.

He pointed out discrepancies from witnesses who said they saw Malvo and Muhammad’s Chevrolet Caprice near the shootings scenes. Prosecutors have said the car, which had a hole drilled into the trunk, was used as an ``urban hide″ to shoot at victims.

Greenspun also said prosecutors have not made a strong case that Muhammad had enough control over Malvo that the teen would kill on his orders.

If Muhammad is convicted, the trial will move to a sentencing phase to determine whether he will receive the death penalty. The sentencing hearing could take up to five days, prosecution and defense lawyers said.

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