DC Sniper's Lawyers Appeal to U.S. High Court

Muhammad is scheduled to die by lethal injection Nov. 10

The man who terrorized DC for three weeks seven years ago and killed 10 people is now desperately trying to save his own life.

Attorneys for sniper mastermind John Allen Muhammad asked the U.S. Supreme Court Tuesday to stop next week's execution.

Muhammad is scheduled to die by lethal injection Nov. 10 at a Virginia prison.

Muhammad is to be executed for the slaying of Dean Harold Meyers at a Manassas, Va., gas station during a killing spree in October 2002 that left 10 dead in Maryland, Virginia and the District of Columbia.

Last month, attorneys for the 48-year-old asked Virginia Gov. Timothy M. Kaine for clemency. But in an earlier interview with WTOP, Kaine had said that he saw no reason why the execution should be stopped.

"Somebody either has to demonstrate that they are innocent or demonstrate that there is a gross procedural or constitutional problem and that it would be unfair to let the execution go forward...and I don't know of anything in the case that would rise to that level," Kaine said.

Kaine's office confirmed that they had received the 40-minute video clemency request two weeks ago, but said, "The governor does not discuss clemency petitions."

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

In a 40-minute video to Kaine last month, 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.

As a Roman Catholic Kaine is opposed to the death penalty, but as governor he has allowed nine executions to take place and commuted one sentence -- a man who he said was too mentally ill to be executed.

Kaine usually waits for a condemned inmate to exhaust all appeals before acting on a clemency request. The court could act anytime before the scheduled execution.

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.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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