- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 25, 2006

Convicted sniper mastermind John Allen Muhammad had little luck yesterday with witnesses he called in his defense, so today he might testify himself.

“I reserve the right to answer that [later],” Muhammad told Montgomery County Circuit Judge James L. Ryan, when asked whether he planned to put himself on the stand.

Muhammad is representing himself, even though he has no legal training, and prosecutors objected to more than half of his hundreds of questions to witnesses yesterday, often successfully.

Muhammad, 45, is charged with six counts of capital murder stemming from the October 2002 sniper spree.

If he does take the stand, Muhammad’s testimony would take the form of a “presentation,” his standby attorney, J. Wyndal Gordon, said.

Closing arguments are expected Tuesday.

Muhammad called four witnesses yesterday after calling his first three Wednesday, and hopes to call “three or four” today, Mr. Gordon said.

But Mr. Gordon said many people subpoenaed by Muhammad have refused to come to court.

“Witnesses don’t want to be a part of Mr. Muhammad’s defense,” Mr. Gordon told the judge. “They’re saying, ‘I don’t care what you do, even if you send the sheriff’s deputies after me, I’m still not coming.’

“I’ve been threatened. I’ve been chased off people’s properties. … I’ve had subpoenas balled up and thrown at me,” Mr. Gordon said. “I didn’t realize how dangerous serving subpoenas could be.”

The few witnesses who did come to court said that they didn’t want to be there and that they didn’t want to help Muhammad.

“It was scary testifying for someone that you believe actually did it, and not wanting to help his case, but I had to tell what I saw,” said Heidi Mansen, a Silver Spring architect who saw the sniper’s sixth shooting.

Mrs. Mansen was in her car at a stoplight, heading north on Georgia Avenue Northwest, just inside the District line, on Oct. 3, 2002, when Pascal Charlot, 72, was shot on the sidewalk to her right.

The red car between Mrs. Mansen’s car and Mr. Charlot sped off from the light as soon as the shot was fired.

Mrs. Mansen chased the car and called police, who pulled over the car in Maryland, just inside the Beltway. The car’s driver was arrested on drug charges that were not related to the sniper shootings.

Robert Metzger, who ran a youth program at Benjamin Tasker Middle School in Bowie two days before 13-year-old Iran Brown was shot there Oct. 7, 2002, also testified for Muhammad yesterday against his will.

“I didn’t want to be talking to him,” Mr. Metzger said.

Mr. Metzger said he saw two strange men in the woods next to the school on the evening of Oct. 4, 2002, a Friday, and told them to leave. He said he had never seen Muhammad before.

Outside the courtroom, Mr. Metzger said he understood that Muhammad “wanted me to make [him] look good,” and then cursed.

Muhammad questioned Ralph Daigneau, a Prince William County, Va., detective who is organizing the trial evidence, for about two hours, probing his handling of the evidence.

Muhammad also tried to call Fairfax County Detective June Boyle to the stand. Lee Boyd Malvo, Muhammad’s accomplice, told Detective Boyle after he was arrested that he shot all 13 victims. In two days of testimony this week, Malvo said he lied to Detective Boyle to protect Muhammad.

Malvo once considered Muhammad a father figure, but said this week in court that Muhammad is a “coward” who pulled the trigger in 10 of the 13 shootings.

Judge Ryan denied Muhammad’s request to question Detective Boyle. The judge also told the jury that prosecutors, despite Muhammad’s many complaints, have provided all the evidence required under law.

Muhammad and Malvo each were convicted of one fatal shooting in Virginia, two of the 10 fatalities in the three-week spree that also left three persons wounded.

A Virginia Beach jury sentenced Muhammad to death, but authorities said they brought him to Montgomery County for insurance, in case his first conviction is overturned. A Chesapeake, Va., jury sentenced Malvo to life in prison without parole. In Montgomery County, he testified this week for the prosecution and pleaded guilty to the six slayings for which Muhammad is being tried.

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