- The Washington Times - Monday, May 8, 2006

Convicted sniper John Allen Muhammad frequently got right to the point yesterday as he cross-examined witnesses in his trial in Montgomery County.

“Did you see who shot him? Did you know who shot him?” Muhammad, acting as his own attorney, asked a police officer who responded to the Oct. 3, 2002, shooting of Prem Kumar Walekar. The cabdriver was one of four persons fatally shot that day in Montgomery County during a three-week killing spree that terrorized the Washington area.

Officer Paul Kukucka said he had not seen the shooter.

At other times, Muhammad’s questions were more obtuse. He engaged in a lengthy colloquy with Officer Kukucka about the placement of crime scene tape, for instance.

Mr. Walekar’s daughter, Andrea Walekar, testified yesterday that she and her family learned of his death on television, when they saw video of his cab at the gas station where he was killed. Muhammad declined to cross-examine her.

A witness to Mr. Walekar’s shooting, emergency room doctor Caroline Namrow, described how she administered CPR to Mr. Walekar and assured him he would be OK, even though she realized his chances were slim.

Dr. Namrow said she had heard “a loud bang” and then Mr. Walekar “walked toward my car. He said, ‘Call an ambulance,’ and he collapsed.”

Muhammad questioned Dr. Namrow about exactly what she saw. After Dr. Namrow testified that she saw Mr. Walekar both before and after the shooting, when he walked toward her, Muhammad asked, “At any time did you see this person get up and start walking?” Dr. Namrow responded, “No.”

Many of Muhammad’s objections were quickly overruled by Judge James Ryan, but he succeeded on a few occasions.

Muhammad was allowed to introduce a photograph over prosecutors’ objections that showed police taking evidence from a rooftop near one of the shooting scenes. Authorities have said Muhammad and his accomplice, Lee Boyd Malvo, converted Muhammad’s Chev-rolet Caprice so they could fire shots from the trunk.

Also, Muhammad cross-examined several police officers about the importance of securing witnesses in a crime scene, which might allow Muhammad to argue that police who followed proper procedures would have seen him and questioned him if he were indeed the sniper.

Muhammad, 45, who says he is innocent, has tried to show that no one actually saw him firing the shots. On the first day of testimony Friday, he asked witnesses to the shootings if they saw the shooter. All said no.

Muhammad implied in his opening statement Thursday that he and Malvo were merely driving around the area looking for Muhammad’s three children, who had been taken by his ex-wife.

The judge yesterday denied Muhammad’s renewed motion for a change of venue and a new jury. Muhammad argued that the jury is biased against him because most jurors said during the selection process that they think Muhammad is guilty. The judge allowed them to sit as jurors because they said they could put their beliefs aside and make their decision based on the evidence.

Prosecutors are working through each killing chronologically, and began with the Oct. 2, 2002, slaying of James Martin in a supermarket parking lot. That killing was followed by four more in Montgomery County and one in the District the next day, as police and residents realized someone was shooting people at random.

A Virginia jury sentenced Muhammad to death in 2003 for a sniper murder in Manassas. In Maryland, he is charged with killing Mr. Martin, Mr. Walekar, James L. “Sonny” Buchanan, Sarah Ramos, Lori-Ann Lewis Rivera and Conrad Johnson.

Malvo, serving a life term in Virginia for a sniper shooting, faces trial in the fall for the same six Maryland slayings. However, he might plead guilty to those crimes and testify against Muhammad.

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