A Collaboration with the University of Pittsburgh

Federal appeals court upholds death sentence for DC sniper

[JURIST] A three-judge panel for the US Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit [official website] on Friday upheld [opinion, PDF] the death sentence handed down to DC-area sniper John Allen Muhammad [BBC profile]. In his appeal, Muhammad alleged "nondisclosure of exculpatory information by the prosecution, ineffective assistance of his trial counsel, improper exclusion of expert testimony during his sentencing phase, and improper time and page restrictions on his habeas petition." In an opinion written by Judge Roger Gregory, the court held, "[w]e are unable to find reversible error in the conclusions of the state and district courts, and we therefore affirm the district court's decision to deny habeas relief." Muhammad's counsel said he plans to petition the court to review [Washington Post report] Friday's decision en banc.

In 2007, the Maryland Court of Special Appeals [official website] ruled [JURIST report] that a Maryland court did not err in finding Muhammad competent to stand trial in Maryland. Muhammad was sentenced in Maryland in June 2006 to six consecutive life terms in prison without the possibility of parole following his conviction [JURIST reports] by a Maryland jury of six counts of murder. Maryland prosecutors did not seek the death penalty but wanted a second conviction in case his earlier Virginia conviction [JURIST reports] was overturned on appeal. Muhammad was convicted and sentenced to death in 2005 in Virginia for shootings there. Accomplice Lee Boyd Malvo [BBC profile], who pleaded guilty [JURIST report] to the Virginia charges and received a life sentence, testified [JURIST report] in the Maryland case that Muhammad pulled the trigger in five of the six killings there.

About Paper Chase

Paper Chase is JURIST's real-time legal news service, powered by a team of 30 law student reporters and editors led by law professor Bernard Hibbitts at the University of Pittsburgh School of Law. As an educational service, Paper Chase is dedicated to presenting important legal news and materials rapidly, objectively and intelligibly in an accessible format.

© Copyright JURIST Legal News and Research Services, Inc., 2013.