11/17/2003

Sniper Suspect Muhammad Guilty of Murder

By MATTHEW BARAKAT, The Associated Press

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. - A jury convicted John Allen Muhammad of capital murder Monday, concluding he used a rifle, a beat-up car and a teenager who idolized him to kill randomly and terrorize the Washington area during last year's sniper spree.

Jurors will now decide whether the Army veteran should be sentenced to death or life in prison. The panel deliberated for about 6 1/2 hours.

Muhammad was convicted of two counts of capital murder. One accused him of taking part in multiple murders, the other - the result of a post-Sept. 11 terrorism law - alleged the killings were designed to terrorize the population. Muhammad is the first person tried under the law.

Muhammad, 42, was found guilty of killing Dean Harold Meyers, a Vietnam veteran who was cut down by a single bullet that hit him in the head as he filled his tank at a Manassas gas station.

Fellow suspect Lee Boyd Malvo, 18, is on trial separately in nearby Chesapeake for the killing of Linda Franklin at a Home Depot in Falls Church. He also could get the death penalty.

In all, the two men were accused of shooting 19 people - killing 13 and wounding six - in Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, Maryland, Virginia and the District of Columbia in what prosecutors said was an attempt to extort $10 million from the government.

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