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There is one place where seven murders doesn’t stand out.

“I’m surrounded by people who have committed as many murders as me,” Veal told the judge, referring to his years in prison. “Some have committed twice as many. And believe it or not, there are actually men there who have committed three times as many murders as me. …

“There’s been people who have come in with as many murders as me — more — who got locked up after I did, and they’ve already been released from prison. I mean, the government does reward people for significant cooperation.”

A sentencing memo submitted by Veal’s attorney, Elise Haldane, also sought to shed light on another side of her client. She said Veal’s father died when he was 13; that he was arrested for car theft at 16; and that the Ku Klux Klan burned down his family’s house when he was a child.

In addition, the memo noted what it called Veal’s rehabilitation in prison, pointing to a forensic psychologist’s finding that Veal “does not seem to be a threat to return to activities that would threaten others.” The memo also said Veal had gotten counseling, studied Islam and took numerous educational courses while in prison.

There are no hard-and-fast guidelines on how big a sentencing break multiple murderers like Veal should receive, and even the decision on whether to make a specific sentencing recommendation can vary with jurisdiction.

“Prosecutors need to be particularly careful in using people like this,” said Monroe Freedman, former dean of Hofstra Law School and a sentencing expert. “I’m not completely unsympathetic to the view that to make a case against people like this, violent people, it requires people who have been close to them.”

Still, recommending a sentence that means Veal will be free again isn’t without risk: “When you have seven murders, there’s a real and serious danger — there’s a pathology there,” said Mark W. Osler, former federal prosecutor and law professor at the University of St. Thomas School of Law in Minnesota.

Mr. Heaphy said he and the prosecutors canvassed U.S. attorneys’ offices in other jurisdictions to see what sentence Veal might receive elsewhere before making a recommendation. They also interviewed investigators and families of Veal’s victims.

“He willingly and purposely killed seven men, motivated by both greed and the desire to please the other members of this violent gang,” Mr. Heaphy and other prosecutors wrote in a sentencing memo. Yet they called Veal’s cooperation “extraordinary by any measure,” and they settled on a recommendation of 25 years in prison. The judge agreed, reluctantly.

“I give you less than life, only because I do believe you and I do believe that you have demonstrated you have changed your life, but I still believe that 25 years is the minimum that I can really justify in my own conscience of doing my job of what I think is right, and I come to it reluctantly, because it’s hard for me to say that somebody who has committed seven murders should ever see the light of day,” Judge Lamberth, who is now chief judge for the federal court in Washington, told Veal.

Cobb’s mother, Lillian, said in a recent interview that Veal sent a letter to her family apologizing, but she said that didn’t change her mind about the man who took her son’s life. “I don’t think he should ever get out,” she said.

When he spoke at his sentencing, Veal told Judge Lamberth he had changed, that he was not same the “reckless, heartless, careless person who walked these streets and committed such heinous crimes.” He said he remembered the day that marked “the downfall of my life” years earlier when he shot a man named Ervon Clyburn.

“They drove me around, they went and got the gun … and I was thinking, how can I get myself out of this?” he said. “And then, you know, I tried to make all these different excuses, and all along they were talking and driving, and then they drove me to the spot where he was, and they showed me that there were like six of them standing around, waiting.

“Everyone knew what was going on, except for Mr. Clyburn … and I think that was the longest three minutes of my life,” he said. “I walked up to him, and I just closed my eyes and pulled the trigger, and I got a taste of that gunpowder in my life, and I didn’t look back. …”