Wild-eyed and sometimes shouting in his closing argument, John Allen Muhammad said Friday that he had been framed for the Washington area sniper slayings, alleging faked evidence ranging from DNA and ballistic tests to maps on his laptop computer that marked shooting scenes with skull-and-crossbones icons.
“They are just nothing but hackers. They just happen to work for the FBI or the CIA,” Muhammad said of investigators who examined the computer. They were just a few of the people Muhammad accused of lying in a rambling, three-hour-and-20-minute statement.
“Let me tell you a story about the lying prosecutors and the lying policemen, whew, and the story they told,” Muhammad said.
Montgomery County Circuit Judge James Ryan frequently cut Muhammad short, upholding prosecution objections that he was straying from the evidence before ending his closing argument completely. Muhammad appeared to grow more agitated as his attempts to describe a conspiracy against him were blocked.
Muhammad defended himself in his murder trial over six Maryland slayings, part of the October 2002 sniper shootings that terrified the region.
In their rebuttal, prosecutors dismissed Muhammad’s conspiracy theory.
“Why would all these people get together and orchestrate this to come in and testify in court to frame two innocent people?” prosecutor Katherine Winfree asked jurors before they were sent home for the weekend. They were to begin deliberations Tuesday.
Accused of playing God
In the state’s closing argument earlier, prosecutor Vivek Chopra said Muhammad was a “pathetic” coward who played god over the innocent people he shot as he hid in the trunk of a car.
Showing the jury photos of the six victims, Chopra played off the “Call Me God” message in notes left at shooting scenes and in phone calls to authorities.
“This man considers himself a god,” Chopra said. “For the love of money and to salvage some value of a pathetic life wasted, he made godlike decisions for these people.”
Muhammad sat with his chin in his hands for most of Chopra’s closing comments.
He closed his defense Friday morning after he had called just a handful of witnesses and was prevented from calling others. He chose not to take the stand despite indicating earlier that he might, telling Montgomery County Circuit Judge James Ryan, “Muhammad has no intention of testifying.”
Muhammad already has been sentenced to death in Virginia for one of the October 2002 sniper shootings, which left 10 people dead and three wounded. Prosecutors have billed his second trial as insurance in case that conviction is ever overturned.
Chopra reminded jurors that the gun linked forensically to most of the shootings was in Muhammad’s Chevrolet Caprice when he and Lee Boyd Malvo were arrested on Oct. 24, 2002. The car had a hole bored in the trunk for a rifle barrel.
“You need to go no further to find premeditation, ladies and gentlemen, than the car, his killing machine, the perfect sniper’s nest for a coward,” Chopra said.
Stands by ‘son’ Malvo
Muhammad claimed in his closing statement that tests linking his DNA to items found at shooting scenes and the Bushmaster scope were fabricated. He questioned whether parts of the gun had been swapped so that forensic evidence from it matched bullets used in the murders.
Malvo, 21, agreed to plead guilty to the same six Maryland murders this week and gave a detailed, inside account of the planning and execution of the sniper shootings.
He testified this week that Muhammad devised the scheme to terrorize the region, and planned even more killings. Glaring at the man he had considered a father figure, Malvo said: “You took me into your house and you made me a monster.”
In his closing, Muhammad challenged details of Malvo’s testimony but said he still cared for him. Although Malvo protested when Muhammad called him “son” during his cross-examination, the defendant used the word repeatedly Thursday.
“I speak for my son. I don’t care what you saw up there. I don’t jump ship like that. I love my son and I know what they did to him.” Muhammad said. “My son is innocent, I am asking you all to find us both innocent.”