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Sniper Muhammad sentenced to death

Judge follows jury's recommendation


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Muhammad sentenced to death
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John Allen Muhammad
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MANASSAS, Virginia (CNN) -- A Virginia judge Tuesday sentenced John Allen Muhammad to death for killing Dean Harold Meyers -- one of 10 people shot to death during the October 2002 sniper shootings.

Prince William County Circuit Judge LeRoy Millette Jr. made the decision after reviewing a jury's recommendation.

Millette said the jury correctly found that Muhammad, 43, would be a "continuing, serious threat to society" if allowed to live.

Millette said he looked at other cases in Virginia for comparison, and "there simply are no other crimes" of the same magnitude.

Millette set an October 14 execution date, but that will likely be delayed by an appeal.

Before Millette pronounced the sentence, Muhammad insisted, "I had nothing to do with this."

"You do what you have to do and let me do what I have to do to defend myself," he told the judge.

Most of the sniper victims were gunned down in the Maryland and Virginia areas around the nation's capital.

Meyers, 53, was shot and killed October 9, 2002, while he was pumping gas at a Sunoco station in Manassas. It was one of 13 shootings that terrorized the region during a three-week span.

Muhammad's accomplice, Lee Boyd Malvo, 19, was convicted in a separate trial of another sniper shooting. A jury sentenced him to life without parole. His formal sentencing is set for Wednesday.

Muhammad's attorneys had pleaded that his life be spared, arguing in court papers filed Friday that "if someone is able to change from a loving father to a killer, then time can also change him back yet again."

Throughout his trial and sentencing, Muhammad, 43, maintained his innocence, and his attorneys have sought to overturn the verdict and sentence on numerous legal grounds. They also have laid the groundwork for future appeals.

Because the sniper killings took place in several jurisdictions, Muhammad and Malvo could be tried elsewhere, and one prosecutor said they should be.

"There's always the possibility of appeal and reversal on appeal," said Douglas Gansler, state's attorney for Montgomery County, Maryland. "We should try these men in other states applying other laws to other facts."

Future prosecutions of Malvo -- who was a minor at the time of the killings -- may be delayed until after the U.S. Supreme Court decides next year whether juvenile death sentences are constitutional.

A six-page document filed last week on Muhammad's behalf put aside questions of guilt or about legal procedure, asking Millette to reduce the verdict.

The filing said the court should consider Muhammad "was born an innocent infant, then became a child and a man who was buffeted by crushing poverty, neglect and abuse, by war, and ultimately by the loss of his children and his marriage."

Prosecutors allege that Muhammad was motivated by the loss of his children in a bitter divorce with his wife, Mildred.

The court filing, by attorneys Peter Greenspun and Jonathan Shapiro, goes on to say that Muhammad was "a proud member of the ROTC" and served in the Louisiana and Oregon national guards and the U.S. Army. They said he had no previous criminal record

The filing also said that the state would be wrong to sanction another killing and that it would serve only to make Muhammad's children fatherless.

CNN's Mike Ahlers and Jeanne Meserve contributed to this report.


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