Supreme Court Denies Sniper's Request to Stop Execution

Muhammad scheduled to die by lethal injection Tuesday

By Matthew Stabley
|  Monday, Nov 9, 2009  |  Updated 2:37 PM EDT
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Supreme Court Denies Sniper's Request to Stop Execution

AP

DC sniper John Allen Muhammad is scheduled to die by lethal injection Tuesday.

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WASHINGTON -- The U.S. Supreme Court won't stop the execution of the man who terrorized the D.C. area for three weeks seven years ago, killing 10 people in Virginia, Maryland and D.C.

The court declined without comment Monday to consider John Allen Muhammad's stay of execution request.  Muhammad's attorney, however, had this to say:

"Virginia will execute a severely mentally ill man who also suffered from Gulf War Syndrome the day before Veterans Day," said attorney Jonathan Sheldon.

Supreme Court justices John Stevens, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sonia Sotomayor objected to the decision on the belief that the court should stay all executions scheduled in advance of the completion of their review, Stevens said in a statement issued Monday. He noted that normally Muhammad's petition would have been reviewed by the court on Nov. 24.

"We have allowed Virginia to truncate our deliberative process on a matter -- involving a death row inmate -- that demands the most careful attention," Stevens said.

Muhammad is scheduled to die by lethal injection at 9 p.m. Tuesday at a Virginia prison for the slaying of Dean Harold Meyers at a Manassas, Va., gas station.

Last week, attorneys for the 48-year-old asked the Supreme Court to stop the execution. Last month, they sought clemency from Virginia Gov. Tim Kaine, but he said he saw no reason why the execution should be stopped. Kaine usually waits for a condemned inmate to exhaust all appeals before acting on a clemency request.

Muhammad's lawyers  also appealed to the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, saying prosecutors withheld critical evidence and that Muhammad should not have been allowed to act as his own attorney. That appeal also was denied. 

In a 40-minute video sent to Kaine, attorneys, mental health experts and witnesses describe Muhammad's illness. Muhammad's attorneys claim he has brain damage, brain dysfunction and neurological deficits, as well as psychotic and delusional behavior, exacerbated by the Gulf War Syndrome he suffered as a sergeant in the first Iraq war.

They also submitted an interview with a juror who said that she would not have sentenced Muhammad to death if she had known of his severe mental illness.

The Supreme Court has banned executing the insane or the mentally disabled, measured by an IQ less than 70, established by the age of 18, and the lack of basic adaptive skills.

Muhammad and his teenage accomplice, Lee Boyd Malvo, were also suspected of fatal shootings in other states, including Louisiana and Alabama. Malvo is serving a life sentence in prison.

Death row inmates in Virginia can choose to die by the needle or the electric chair. According to prison officials, Muhammad declined to pick one, so by default he will be killed by lethal injection.

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