- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 11, 2009

JARRATT, Va. | John Allen Muhammad - the mastermind of the 2002 sniper attacks that killed 10 people in Virginia, Maryland and the District - was executed by lethal injection Tuesday night in Virginia.

Muhammad was pronounced dead at 9:11 p.m. at the Greensville Correctional Center just over nine hours after Gov. Tim Kaine announced that he would not intervene.

A reporter for The Washington Times was one of four media witnesses to the execution.

At 8:58 p.m., Muhammad entered the brightly lit death chamber wearing dark-blue jeans, a light-blue, short-sleeved, loose-fitting shirt and sandals. He was clean-shaven, his hair was unruly, and he appeared gaunt. He was shackled and surrounded by corrections officers.

He staggered as the door opened. He looked around the room, mostly at the floor. Dimmed light in the room where the victims’ families sat prevented Muhammad from seeing inside.

He only briefly had an opportunity to look into the room that held the public witnesses and the media representatives. He did not appear to look into the room.

Six officers - five men and a woman wearing corrections uniforms devoid of name tags or rank insignias - strapped him to the table by 9 p.m.

When Muhammad was secured, the officers stepped back and a navy-blue curtain was closed, blocking the prisoner from view of the witnesses.

At 9:06 p.m., the curtain was drawn back, revealing Muhammad strapped in, his hands taped to the gurney and two intravenous tubes - one in each arm, but a curtain concealed what they were attached to. A red and a green wire that prison officials said were attached to a heart monitor wound through Muhammad’s shirt.

“Mr. Muhammad, do you have any last words?” a state official asked.

Two corrections officials quickly stepped forward with recorders to capture anything he had to say.

He said nothing. His eyes were open, and he stared at the ceiling.

At 9:07 p.m., one of the intravenous lines began to twitch rapidly - a movement that appeared to be caused by the first of three lethal drugs flowing through the line.

Muhammad breathed deeply. His chest moved up and down seven times. His foot appeared to wiggle slightly. He blinked in rapid succession. Then he closed his eyes. He did not open them again.

Two officers stood over Muhammad, behind his head, hands clasped in front of them, watching. Two men manning telephones - one red and one beige with lines to the governor’s office and the warden - continued to wait, phones clasped to their ears. All eyes were on Muhammad. His breathing slowed.

At 9:11 p.m., a man stepped from behind the blue curtain and announced that Muhammad was dead.

One of the six state witnesses, the only woman, said, “Interesting,” while other witnesses commented on the oddity of Muhammad’s death occurring precisely at 9:11.

After pronouncing death, officials closed the curtain. Muhammad’s attorneys, Jonathan Sheldon and J. Wyndal Gordon, who witnessed the execution, left the room. The public witnesses filed out, followed by the media representatives.

Virginia Department of Corrections spokesman Larry Traylor said the execution went “very, very normally.”

“There were no complications,” Mr. Traylor said.

Dozens of television crews, photographers and reporters camped outside the prison to cover the execution of the man responsible for the deadly three-week sniper rampage.

Muhammad and Lee Boyd Malvo, then 17, terrorized the D.C. area, killing people randomly outside restaurants and shopping centers, schools, grocery stores and gas stations. They also are suspected in a number of other shootings across the country.

Mr. Gordon, a Baltimore-based lawyer who served as lead standby counsel for Muhammad, visited with the condemned prisoner a few hours before he was to be put to death.

Mr. Gordon described Muhammad’s mood as “very strong” and said he was “very talkative.”

“He understands death is impending. He has no regrets - wouldn’t change a thing,” Mr. Gordon said. Mr. Gordon also said Muhammad “speaks fondly of Malvo,” who is serving a sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole.

Muhammad, 48, was sentenced to death in March 2004 for the killing of Dean Harold Meyers, a civil engineer who was fatally shot while pumping gas in Manassas on Oct. 9, 2002.

Mr. Meyers’ brother, Robert Meyers, traveled to Virginia from his home in Pennsylvania to witness the execution. Mr. Meyers was one of a group of victims’ family members who chose to attend. He said about 20 family members of victims were transported together to and from the prison in three white vans.

“The actual process was clinical, surreal,” he said. “I didn’t cry. I felt a deep sadness that a person would sink to the level he did, to drag other people down, to put everybody through so much.”

He said there was no joy in the witness room.

“We’re not celebrating. The process worked. It’s complete, and it’s over,” he said.

Prince William County Commonwealth’s Attorney Paul B. Ebert, who secured the death penalty for Muhammad, attended his first execution. He said it was anticlimactic.

“He died very peacefully. Much more than most of his victims,” he said.

Carol Williams, Muhammad’s first wife and the mother of his eldest son, arrived at the prison earlier in the day and said she had planned to visit Muhammad one last time, but was denied access “for security reasons,” she was told.

“I am here for closure,” she said, “and to take him home to Louisiana to be buried.”

She and Muhammad divorced in 1987. She said her son, Lindbergh, and his wife were granted a last meeting with Muhammad.

Mr. Traylor would not confirm visitors Muhammad had received. He said Muhammad was allowed two opportunities to visit with immediate family, one before lunch and one after. Only during one of the visits was Muhammad allowed to have physical contact with the visitors.

Mr. Traylor said that after Muhammad’s death, his body was to be transported to the state medical examiner’s office in Richmond. He said that could happen as early as 9:30 p.m. Tuesday, but he would not comment on any arrangements made to claim the body.

He was entitled, but refused, to have a spiritual counselor present. Mr. Traylor also said Muhammad requested that his choice for a last meal not be released.

The execution was to be the 10th overseen by Mr. Kaine, a staunch Catholic who personally opposes the death penalty. Earlier in the day, Mr. Kaine said he saw no reason to intervene in the case.

“Having carefully reviewed the petition for clemency and judicial opinions regarding this case, I find no compelling reason to set aside the sentence that was recommended by the jury and then imposed and affirmed by the courts,” he said. “Accordingly, I decline to intervene.”

Mr. Kaine announced his decision not to intervene in the sniper’s death sentence after the U.S. Supreme Court on Monday declined to stay the execution. Mr. Sheldon, one of Muhammad’s attorneys, argued that Muhammad should not be put to death because he is mentally ill. Mr. Sheldon submitted a video presentation to Mr. Kaine last month that included audio of interviews with attorneys and mental health professionals.

The six state witnesses who viewed the execution were a Virginia state trooper, a veterinarian, a Chesterfield County police detective, two federal law-enforcement agents and a Virginia Department of Transportation contractor.

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