- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Convicted sniper mastermind John Allen Muhammad will get a second chance to represent himself in a capital murder trial.

A Montgomery County Circuit judge yesterday granted Muhammad’s request to defend himself during a hearing in which Muhammad denounced assertions by his defense attorneys that he is schizophrenic.

“I am a sane individual your honor,” said Muhammad, 45, who stood instead of sitting for the entire two-hour hearing. “If I’m incompetent now, I’ve been incompetent since the day I was born. There is no reason at all that I should not represent myself. It is not my intention to lose. …This is my life. These people have attacked my life.”

Judge James L. Ryan allowed Muhammad to dismiss attorneys Paul B. DeWolfe and Brian Shefferman of Maryland’s Office of the Public Defender and relegated them to standby counsel.

Mr. DeWolfe and Mr. Shefferman are expected to learn today whether the agency wants them to continue.

However, Mr. Shefferman said attorneys of that office “typically don’t act in [a support] capacity.”

Muhammad said he was “fine” with having no legal assistance.

“I came out of my mother’s womb all by myself,” he said.

Said Mr. DeWolfe: “I think he’ll make it through trial, poorly.”

The trial is scheduled to begin May 1, with prosecutors seeking life in prison without parole in connection with the fatal shootings of six persons in Montgomery County over three weeks in October 2002.

The judge set a procedural hearing for tomorrow.

Muhammad insists he is innocent of the crimes.

In 2003, a jury in southeastern Virginia found Muhammad guilty of shooting, with an accomplice, 13 random persons in the region during the fall of 2002, killing 10. He was he sentenced to death.

The jury found Muhammad’s accomplice, Lee Boyd Malvo, now 21, guilty of helping carry out the shootings, which authorities think included at least nine additional shootings across the country.

Muhammad is believed to have been hunting down his ex-wife, Mildred, who has custody of their three children.

He said yesterday that defense attorneys were “trying to circumvent my rights” by planning an insanity defense, and that he has told them for months that he intended to mount his own defense.

Muhammad was allowed to defend himself two years ago in the trial in Virginia. He argued the case for the first two days, making an opening statement and questioning witnesses, including one shooting victim, then was unable to continue because of an abscess in his mouth.

Muhammad, who is black, made several references to race during the hearing yesterday and said he has been a victim of racism.

“If I have a mental disorder, then Rosa Parks has a mental disorder because she didn’t get up off that seat,” he said.

Muhammad also said a female psychiatrist hired by his defense attorneys spent a lot of time trying to “tell Muhammad about Muhammad.”

“I know no other reality except a black man’s reality,” he said. “She knows no other way of reasoning, except for a white woman’s reality. There’s nothing wrong with that. It becomes wrong when she tries to take her white reality, and impose it on my black reality. It is wrong for me to try to impose my black reality on her white reality…. We live in one America, but we live in two different realities.”

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