Virginia Gov. Denies Clemency For Sniper

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John Allen Muhammad is scheduled to die Tuesday night at the Greensville Correctional Center in Jarratt, Va. Muhammad was the mastermind behind a shooting spree that left 10 dead and the Washington area terrorized in the fall of 2002.

MICHELE NORRIS, host:

In less than an hour, convicted D.C.-area sniper John Allen Muhammad is scheduled to die by lethal injection. Muhammad will be executed for the murder of Dean Meyers. Meyers was one of 10 people murdered by Muhammad and his then-teenaged accomplice, Lee Boyd Malvo.

NPR's Brian Naylor reports.

BRIAN NAYLOR: October 2002 was a frightening time to live in the Washington area. In Montgomery County, Maryland, just north of the District, five people were shot and killed at random in a 24-hour period. They were doing the most mundane things: shopping, mowing the grass, getting gas. More shootings followed in Virginia and at a Washington street corner. Schools were put in lockdown, normal lives seemed fraught with danger. Prince William County, Virginia, prosecutor James Willett remembers it vividly.

Mr. JAMES WILLETT (Prosecutor, Virginia): Everybody was intimidated by their actions. Everyone shared the experience of looking over one's shoulder while pumping gas or walking across the parking lot.

NAYLOR: After a killing spree that left 10 people dead and three wounded, police arrested Muhammad and Malvo at a Maryland rest stop. They were found inside a beat-up Chevrolet Caprice that had been modified to allow them to lie down inside the trunk area and fire a rifle while hidden. The U.S. Justice Department decided to try the pair in Virginia where the death penalty is routinely carried out. Malvo avoided the death sentence and is serving life without parole. Muhammad was convicted in the death of Dean Meyers, a Vietnam veteran. He was shot in the head as he put gas in his car in Manassas, Virginia. Willett was one of three prosecutors assigned the case.

Mr. WILLETT: In many murder cases in local jurisdictions such as this, the victims are oftentimes part of the criminal element themselves - it's a drug deal gone bad or something along those lines. But here, these people were randomly selected from the general populace and they were folks - they were ordinary folks like you and me.

NAYLOR: Muhammad's appeals were exhausted yesterday after the Supreme Court refused to grant a stay. Today, Virginia's governor said there would be no clemency. Willett is not celebrating that his most notorious defendant is about to die.

Mr. WILLETT: There's no happiness for any of us with Mr. Muhammad's pending execution. We are obviously in favor of it. We hope it takes place, but it is not a joyous event in any fashion.

NAYLOR: Among those who will watch Muhammad's execution is Dean Meyers' brother, Bob. He's driving down from Pennsylvania, not out of a need for vengeance he says, rather out of loyalty to his brother and the relatives of the other shooting victims.

Mr. BOB MEYERS: There's no winners here. It's sad. It's a sad thing that he chose to do what he did, it's a sad thing that he won't take responsibility for it, as far as I know. And it's a sad thing that he has to lose his life after having taken so many others' lives.

NAYLOR: Bob Meyers has experienced his share, perhaps more than his share, of tragedy. His first wife was killed by a dump truck, his mother died six months after his brother was killed. Bob Meyers credits his strong faith with enabling him to deal with the tragedies. He finds memories of his brother, Dean, each year in the fireworks he would set off, the baseball games he attended, the old cars he loved.

Mr. MEYERS: Hot rods and Corvettes and, you know, anytime...

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. MEYERS: ...anytime I have those kind of exposures, you know, it's like well this was part of Dean's life, you know, this was important to him.

NAYLOR: Meyer says he is at peace with the execution of his brother's killer, though he adds, he's not sure he has a clear picture of what it will be like to watch someone take their last breath when it's not a natural death.

Brian Naylor, NPR News, Washington.

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