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D.C. sniper questions witnesses in new trial

/ Source: The Associated Press

Convicted sniper John Allen Muhammad, representing himself in his second trial stemming from the October 2002 Washington-area shootings, questioned witnesses Friday on the point that no one actually saw the gunman.

Prosecutors began their case by asking witnesses to describe the loud, echoing bang of a gunshot and the collapse of the sniper’s first victim.

Muhammad, who is acting as his own lawyer, asked if any of the witnesses saw the person who fired the shot.

Kimberly Sadelson, who had been grocery shopping in Wheaton, described hearing “a loud bang” and turning to see James Martin fall down. She said she called 911 and saw Martin lying on the ground.

“He wasn’t moving,” she said.

Muhammad asked Sadelson whether she had seen who had fired the shot and asked whether she had seen Martin before he was shot. She answered “no” to both questions.

Eber Albanez, who also was outside the grocery store at the time of the shooting, said the shot sounded “quite close.” He said he saw Martin grab at his chest and say “please help me” as he fell.

Muhammad asked Albanez if his attention had been focused on putting items in the trunk of his car in the parking lot and if Albanez had seen Martin get shot. Albanez said he did not see Martin get shot.

Sentenced to death
Muhammad is on trial for the six murders that occurred in Montgomery County, where the shooting spree that killed 10 people and wounded three began and ended. He has been sentenced to death for a Virginia killing.

Sgt. Alan Felsen, a Montgomery County police officer who responded to the Oct. 2, 2002, shooting, testified to finding Martin face down in the parking lot with “a very large bright trail of blood” coming from his body.

Muhammad asked him if he had seen the shooting and whether he knew what direction the shot had come from, and Felsen said he had not.

“I couldn’t pinpoint it,” Felsen said, referring to the direction of the shot.

David McGill, a forensics specialist for Montgomery County police, testified about responding to the crime scene, where Martin’s body had been turned over on his back as a paramedic tried to revive him.

Muhammad asked if the original position of Martin’s body would have helped investigators determine what direction the shot had come from. McGill said it would not have helped much.

Gary Huss, who worked at the car dealership where James “Sonny” Buchanan was killed, said it was hard to control his emotions under questioning from Muhammad.

“I’d prefer to lash out at him, but I’m a Christian. I can’t do that,” Huss said after testifying.

Jurors biased?
Muhammad has renewed his bid to have the jury dismissed in a request filed late Thursday, saying they would not be fair. He cited the three-day questioning of potential jurors this week in which most said they already believed he was guilty. And he referred to courtroom outbursts, including one dismissed potential juror who told him he is “a filthy murderer.”

The jurors who were seated said they would be able to put aside their feelings about the case and judge the evidence impartially.

“There is no doubt the bias they (the jury) harbor will resurface during deliberations,” he wrote.

Montgomery County Circuit Judge James Ryan, who denied a similar oral request Thursday, put off the issue until Monday. He also did not hear arguments on another Muhammad motion to bar prosecutors from showing bloody photos of sniper victims. Several were shown during the prosecution’s opening statements and testimony Friday.

Court filings also showed that the judge has issued a gag order, barring attorneys from talking about the case.

On Thursday, Muhammad introduced himself to jurors as a distraught father who was in Maryland in October 2002 only to search for the children he lost in a custody dispute with his estranged wife.

Muhammad maintained his innocence and described the trial as a fight for survival.

In all, he and Lee Boyd Malvo were linked to 10 sniper slayings and three woundings in the Washington area in October 2002. They were also tied to killings in Washington state, Georgia, Alabama, Louisiana, and earlier shootings in the Washington, D.C., region.

Malvo was also convicted in Virginia and sentenced to life in prison.