John Allen Muhammad: Is Justice Really Being Served?

John Allen Muhammad, better known as the DC Sniper, will die tonight. The state of Virginia will execute the man responsible for terrorizing the metropolitan DC area. His manner of death? Lethal injection.

Many people, particularly those from this area, believe that Muhammad is getting what he deserves. I’ve read and heard “fry him,” “eye for an eye,” and “he did the crime now do the time.” Muhammad and his accomplice, Lee Boyd Malvo, terrorized the beltway and are responsible for 10 murders and 16 shootings. Had they not been caught, who knows what the statistics would have been? It seems like a clear-cut case, ripe for execution, but there are other factors to consider.

One of those factors is US Attorney Gen. John Aschcroft’s decision to send Muhummad and Malvo to Virginia to be tried in the first place.  If most of the murders took place in Maryland, then why were they were tried in Virginia? Because the death penalty was on hold in Maryland due to issues surrounding racial disparity in the administration of capital punishment as opposed to Virginia, a death penalty state, where action is swift and death is certain in most death penalty cases.

It was no surprise that Muhammad, the mastermind of the murders was sentenced to death. It is no surprise that judges in Virginia truncated the time for filing appeals and refused to hold a single hearing after the trial.  It is also no surprise that Governor Kaine denied clemency to Muhammad even though his lawyer’s argued that the case moved too quickly and that Muhammad’s original lawyers failed to communicate that the man has a history of mental illness.

According to an article in the Los Angeles Times, Jonathan Sheldon, Muhammad’s current lawyer stated,

“He is delusional, paranoid and incompetent. He was angry at the government after he came back from the Gulf War. And he has delusions of racist conspiracies.”

Which leads me back to my original statement, John Allen Muhammad will die tonight, because the state of Virginia will do what it has always done, fast-tracked the execution of convicted murderers, most of whom are African-American. Regardless of how one feels about Muhummad, if someone is mentally ill, should he be put to death?  If the murders occur in multiple states, should the U.S. Attorney General have the authority to “arbitrariiy” send it to the jurisdiction where the plaintiff is more likely to die than not? Is justice really being served? (read more)

This post originally appeared on, where Nsenga serves as managing editor. Follow her on Twitter @ntellectual.


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