Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Tonight The DC Sniper Will Be Executed

Has it really been seven years ago when Muhammad and Malvo seven years shot and killed 10 people over a three-week span that terrorized the Washington region? Each new report would bring memories of my hometown rushing back. How easily it could have been for me to have been one of those places where the shootings had occurred. How easily one of my friends could have been one of the victims.

Born John Allen Williams, Muhammad joined the Nation of Islam in 1987 and later changed his surname to Muhammad. Drawings by Malvo describe the murders as part of a "jihad" (Arabic for "struggle in the way of God"). If you remember we were told that we had nothing to fear from domestic terrorists so they were careful not to label these murders as acts of domestic terrorism. (Sound familiar?)

As a member of the Nation of Islam, Muhammad helped provide security for the "Million Man March" in 1995, but Nation of Islam leader, Louis Farrakhan has publicly distanced himself and his organization from Muhammad's crimes. Muhammad moved out of the country and spent time with his children in Antigua around 1999, apparently engaging in credit card and immigration document fraud activities. It was during this time that he became close with Lee Boyd Malvo, who later acted as his partner in the killings. John Allen Williams changed his name to John Allen Muhammad in October 2001.

After his arrest, authorities also claimed that Muhammad admitted that he admired and modeled himself after Osama bin Laden and Al Qaeda, and approved of the September 11 attacks. One of Malvo's psychiatric witnesses testified in his trial that Muhammad had indoctrinated him into believing that the proceeds of the extortion attempt would be used to begin a new nation of only young, "pure" black people somewhere in Canada. Oddly enough, Muhammad witnessed the Mark Essex shootout live on television when he was 12.

At Muhammad's trial, the prosecutor claimed that the rampage was part of a plot to kill his ex-wife and regain custody of his children, but the judge ruled that there was insufficient evidence to support this argument.

Today the courts will carry out their sentence and execute John Allen Muhammed.

Attorneys for John Allen Muhammad asked the U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday to stop his execution. The Supreme Court denied the appeal.

Muhammad's lawyers also have asked Virginia Gov. Timothy M. Kaine for clemency, saying Muhammad is mentally ill and should not be executed.

In a 40-minute video to Kaine last month, attorneys, mental health experts and witnesses describe Muhammad's illness. Muhammad's attorneys claim he has brain damage, brain dysfunction and neurological deficits, as well as psychotic and delusional behavior, exacerbated by the Gulf War Syndrome he suffered as a sergeant in the first Iraq war.

They also submitted an interview with a juror who said that she would not have sentenced Muhammad to death if she had known of his severe mental illness.

The Supreme Court has banned executing the insane or the mentally disabled, measured by an IQ less than 70, established by the age of 18, and the lack of basic adaptive skills.

Like Virginia's current governor, Kaine, I am also Catholic and as I said before it is a crisis of faith for me. Do accept church dogma that ALL life is sacred and pray that we do not put this man to death? On the other hand do I ask about the souls of those who died at his hand and wonder if this is one of those render unto Cesar moments because the death penalty is the law? Is it an eye for an eye moment and if so what does that make of me? Does Governor Kaine feel conflicted on this matter? Does he choose to deny clemency because he feels it is morally right for us to execute this man or is he looking towards re-election and realizing that doing anything other than allowing the execution to go forward would prevent him from being re-elected? On what side of the debate do I stand? Why do I continue to straddle between the two divergent views on the death penalty?

So tonight the DC Sniper, John Allen Muhammad, will be executed. Under Virginia law, an inmate is allowed to choose the method by which he or she will be put to death—either lethal injection or the electric chair. Because Muhammad declined to select a method, by law he will receive a lethal injection.

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