Sniper Jury Hears of Six Victims Caught in the Crosshairs

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The New York Sun

ROCKVILLE, Md. – A prosecutor displayed graphic photos of blood splattered scenes showing where six people in the Washington area were gunned down as convicted sniper John Allen Muhammad began his second murder trial yesterday.

“They lined up innocent victims in their crosshairs and fired, destroying lives,” prosecutor Katherine Winfree said during opening statements in a Montgomery County courthouse.

Muhammad and accomplice Lee Boyd Malvo were linked to 10 slayings and three woundings in Maryland, Virginia, and the District of Columbia. They also were tied to shootings in Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, and Washington state.

Muhammad, 45, has been sentenced to death for a Virginia sniper killing and Mr. Malvo, 21, faces life in prison. In the Maryland trial, Muhammad is charged with shooting six people in Montgomery County, the mostly affluent county in the Washington suburbs where the three-week sniper spree in October 2002 began and ended.

Mr. Malvo also faces trial for the same six murders, but it is likely he will plead guilty and testify against Muhammad. Neither faces the death penalty in Maryland.

Ms. Winfree described in detail each of the six shootings and showed grisly photos of each crime scene and victim.

She held up the Bushmaster rifle used in the crimes and showed photos demonstrating how the car driven by the two was modified to serve as a firing platform.

Muhammad, who is serving as his own attorney, sat at the defense table and stared at the prosecutor or looked at the photos of his victims on courtroom monitors. Occasionally, he whispered to one of the court- appointed standby attorneys sitting beside him.

A jury of seven women and five men was picked earlier yesterday from a pool of about 300. Most in the initial pool said they already believed Muhammad was guilty or played a part in the killings.

Many cited the pervasive fear that enveloped the Washington area as people were shot at random at gas stations, parking lots, even a school. People recalled keeping their children inside, putting off filling their gas tanks and avoiding public places. They said it would be difficult to ignore those feelings and judge Muhammad impartially.

Muhammad objected to most prospective jurors, saying he didn’t think they could be fair. His attorneys said the entire pool should be discarded because they already had opinions about Muhammad’s guilt.

Some of the 12 people and four alternates chosen for the jury lived in the county at the time of the shootings. But they said they would be able to put aside their feelings about the case and judge the evidence impartially.

The New York Sun

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