- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 10, 2004

John Allen Muhammad remained his hideous self as he addressed the court in Prince William County on Tuesday.

He said he had “nothing to do” with the sniper killings that terrorized the Washington region in the fall of 2002, despite compelling evidence to the contrary.

He said he was not angry or frustrated, an odd position for someone professing to be not guilty. He also insisted that his has been a “wonderful life,” all 43 years of it, after his attorneys had tried to portray him as the victim of a hard childhood.

He showed no remorse in a courtroom stuffed with the relatives of his victims, no trace of humanity, because, you see, he was not involved in all the evilness.

It was just another glimpse into the twisted soul of a killer.

He is history now, as he should be, after Prince William County Circuit Court Judge LeRoy F. Millette Jr. imposed the death penalty.

Muhammad’s attorneys sought to have their client’s life spared, contending that the difficult circumstances in his background led to the killings.

Their desperate disconnect from reality merely pointed to the heinousness of the perpetrator.

The dropped-on-his-head-as-a-baby defense often is the last refugee of the legally beaten.

So Muhammad grew up in poverty and was abused. Tell that to the relatives of his victims.

His execution date is Oct. 14, a date certain to be delayed because of appeals.

Muhammad is destined to be around a whole lot longer than he deserves and treated in considerably fairer fashion than his victims, who were picked off like mechanical ducks at a shooting gallery.

Muhammad’s passing even ought to be a challenge for the morally obtuse candle-holders who oppose the death penalty. All too many never have met an execution date that did not demand their goodness outside the prison gate, with a candle burning in the nighttime air.

They feel the pain of the moment, in a sanitized way, far removed from the crime scene in the distant past.

Theirs is a higher purpose that inevitably insults the memory of the true victims and their relatives.

The relatives who descended on the courtroom in Prince William County came looking for a sense of closure, if not an emotional ointment to assuage the hurt in their hearts.

Theirs has been the loneliest of ordeals, the senselessness of it, the randomness of it. It could have been anyone. Why was it their loved one? The unanswerable is the hardest to store away in the dark recesses of the mind.

A death sentence was necessary, one sister of a victim said.

It had to be done, the relative of another victim said.

The aggrieved seek a peace of sorts, a degree of finality, that is essential to their healing process.

Muhammad’s death won’t bring back the victims. But it will mean something to the relatives, the certainty of it versus the certainty of their loss. It is justice. It is an act that measures the value of a life, the one taken by another, with absolute efficiency.

The squishy-minded candle-holders, in speaking from the safety of their ivory towers, inevitably omit that dimension from their contention.

Muhammad has to go to help make it right for those left to pick up the pieces of their shattered lives.

His execution will not stop the next nut case. That is hardly the point. No legal impediment is persuasive with the mentally deranged. They have no reasoning power, only a sick vision.

Every breath that Muhammad is allowed to take since his sentencing is one more breath than he and fellow sniper Lee Boyd Malvo allowed their victims. Every legal maneuver ahead for Muhammad is an opportunity to obfuscate his depravity and delay his execution.

He could have stood before the court and acknowledged his beastly deeds. He could have been man enough to do at least that. Instead, he denied his role in the killings. He thanked his attorneys. He thanked the judge. He defended his family, his upbringing.

He never addressed the deep well of pain lurking inside the courtroom.

He is a coward, as Commonwealth’s Attorney Paul B. Ebert said.

No candles are necessary.

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