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D.C.-area sniper gets 6 life terms in Maryland

Sniper  John Allen Muhammad was sentenced Thursday to six  life terms with no possibility of parole, a sentence prosecutors described as insurance in case his Virginia death sentence is ever overturned.
John Allen Muhammad addresses judge James Ryan on April 28 in Rockville, Md. Chris Gardner / Pool via AP FILE
/ Source: The Associated Press

Sniper John Allen Muhammad was sentenced to six consecutive life terms without parole Thursday in what Maryland prosecutors and the victims’ families consider insurance in case his death sentence in Virginia is thrown out.

“You chose the wrong community, sir, to stain with your acts of violence,” Circuit Judge James Ryan said. “You, Mr. Muhammad, have no hope. You have no future. You will spend the rest of your life locked in a cage.”

Muhammad, 45, was convicted of murder Tuesday in the six sniper slayings carried out in Maryland. He previously was convicted and sentenced to death for a murder committed in Virginia. Altogether, 10 people were killed and three wounded during the crime spree that gripped the Washington metropolitan area with fear in October 2002.

Muhammad declined to speak at the sentencing and would not look at four relatives of his victims as they described their pain. He stood with his arms crossed, a blank expression on his face, as the sentence was read.

Just days earlier, he delivered a long, rambling closing argument in which he claimed he had been framed.

Impact statementsAt the sentencing, Nelson Rivera, whose wife was killed while she vacuumed her car at a gas station, said his young daughter tells him she wants to die so that she can be reunited with her mother, Lori Lewis-Rivera. She was among five people killed on Oct. 3, 2002, the bloodiest day of the sniper spree.

“He not only killed my wife, he killed me, he killed my daughter and all the rest of the family,” Rivera said in a soft, halting voice.

Sonia Wills glared at Muhammad while talking about her son Conrad Johnson, a bus driver who was the last person killed in the shootings. “It’s a shame that you cannot look at us to see the people you have devastated, the lives you have ruined,” she said.

An attorney helping Muhammad with the case, J. Wyndal Gordon, said Muhammad told him he did not speak because “I said everything I want to say.”

Muhammad was taken directly from the courtroom to a prison in Waverly, Va., to await execution.

Maryland prosecutors called Muhammad’s second trial insurance in case his 2003 conviction for a killing in Manassas, Va., is overturned. The Maryland verdict will mean that one way or another, he will never get out of prison alive.

Accomplice for the prosecution
The prosecution’s star witness at the Maryland trial was Muhammad’s accomplice and protege, 21-year-old Lee Boyd Malvo, who gave the jurors their first inside look at the crime spree. Malvo testified that Muhammad had an audacious plan to bomb schools and school buses and wreak havoc across the country.

Malvo agreed to plead guilty to the same six murders and is serving a life sentence for a Virginia shooting.

Some of the Maryland jurors came to Muhammad’s sentencing, including Debbie, who identified herself only by her first name.

“It was very clear to us that this man was guilty,” she said. “You could see the anger within him.” She said Muhammad deserved the death penalty.

Maryland prosecutors chose not to pursue a death sentence, saying it would have been difficult to get under the state’s laws.