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Urge Clemency for Muhammad in VA!

As you have likely heard, John Muhammad, the infamous "DC area sniper," is scheduled to be executed in Virginia at 9 pm tomorrow night, November 10.  As a citizen of Maryland -- where nearly half of the shootings occurred in the DC suburbs -- I ask you to raise your voice to say that no execution, one even this one, is not the solution to violence.

Today, the U.S. Supreme Court denied Muhammad's request for a stay of execution.  Only Virginia Governor Tim Kaine can now stop it.  Please contact Governor Kaine and urge him to grant clemency by commuting Muhammad’s death sentence to life without the possibility of parole.  You can contact the governor by telephone, email and/or fax. 
Phone: (804) 786-2211
Fax: (804) 371-6351
Click here to e-mail Governor Kaine

To join a vigil opposing the execution in Northern Virginia, see the list below.

Over the last few days, I have been flooded with vivid memories from the "sniper" shootings in the fall of 2002.

I remember because my kids are and were students in the Prince George's County Schools.  Already on high alert after the shootings in neighboring Montgomery County, the shooting of 13-year-old Iran Brown as he walked into Benjamin Tasker Middle School in Bowie on October 7, 2002 really drove the terror home.  Thanks to the quick action of Brown's aunt, a nurse who had just dropped him off at the school, Brown was one of the 'lucky' victims in that his wounds did heal. 

My 15-year-old son, Alex, shared his memories with me just the other day: He remembers being locked down in school for weeks, running in the hallways for recess, canceled soccer games and practices, and his parents heightened sense of security whenever we left the house.  Many of his friends were banned from playing in their own backyards as well as ours.

Given the fear-ridden memories that the looming execution evoked for my son, I can only imagine the renewed trauma it is causing for the family members of the victims throughout the metro area.  In reading a press account today, my thoughts also turned to Muhammad's three teenage kids and how the death penalty only makes more victims.  Please keep them all in our thoughts and prayers.

I also remember the shootings because Maryland's moratorium on executions, imposed by then Governor Glendening, was then just months old.  Indeed, Maryland's moratorium, and our ban since 1987 on the execution of juveniles, were the key reasons that U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft quickly transferred Muhammad and Malvo to Virginia to be prosecuted first.  Many expected that they would be tried federally, given their victims spanned seven states and DC, but the federal death penalty also exempted juveniles at the time.  Not long before the US Supreme Court banned death for all offenders under 18, the jury in Virginia would choose to sentence the young Malvo to multiple life sentences over death. 

Many Marylanders were angered by this transfer to Virginia given that 10 of the 22 shootings happened here.  After all, the snipers were caught by Maryland law enforcement, in part through ballistic fingerprinting.  And at the time, the use of this technology -- which allows the signature marking of a fired bullet to be matched back to a specific gun (in this case, many shootings to the same gun) -- was strongly OPPOSED by President Bush and A.G. Ashcroft as violating the Second Amendment.

It was not until 2006 that the snipers would come to trial in Maryland.  Muhammad represented himself in a dramatic trial in Montgomery County.  His "cross-examination" of his young accomplice, Malvo, indeed made for sensationalized news copy.  But because the death penalty was NOT sought in Maryland, the families of the victims would learn more about the hows and whys of these senseless killings then ever emerged from the capital trials of both men in Virginia years earlier.

John Muhammad’s is severely mentally ill.  His illness was exacerbated by the Gulf War Syndrome that he suffered from his deployment and military service as a Sergeant in the first Iraq war.  It is particularly sad that his execution is scheduled on the eve of Veteran’s Day (and less than a week after the shootings at Fort Hood by yet another man damaged by war).  Neither the judge nor jury heard about Muhammad's severe mental illness and one of the jurors in this case has stated that she would not have sentenced him to death if she had known.  Click here (and then click announcements) for more information, including audio interviews with a psychiatrist and juror as well as MRI brain scans and neuropsychological brain imaging that point to brain damage and mental illness.

It gives me heart to know that, in Maryland, a growing majority of us reject state executions.  Again, please take a few minutes to urge Virginia's Governor Kaine to stop this execution.

Blessings,
Jane Henderson
Executive Director, MD CASE

Vigils Opposing the Muhammad Execution in Northern VA

ARLINGTON
Arlington County Courthouse Plaza
In front of the County Government building, a block from the Courthouse Metro station.
Vigils begin at 8:40. Sponsored by VADP-NOVA chapter.
Email VADP-NOVA@yahoogroups.com

ALEXANDRIA
Alexandria Friends Meeting at Woodlawn
8660 Woodlawn Road, Ft.Belvoir, VA
Barbara Ginsburg: 703-455-0194, jbginsburg@verizon.net
John Carle: JCthird@aol.com

FAIRFAX
St. Mary of Sorrows Parish (in the Grotto area outside the church) 8:45-9:15 pm, Rt. 123 and Fairfax Station Rd.
Mason Nottingham: (703) 323-5726
Carol Mayfield: (703) 978-4141, ext 19