VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (AP) – Jury selection in the trial of sniper
suspect John Allen Muhammad slowed yesterday as several would-be
jurors said they believe he is guilty in the string of shootings
that terrorized the Washington area a year ago.
Only seven of 16 potential jurors interviewed yesterday
qualified for the panel, with five of the nine disqualified at the
defense’s request, and one at the joint request of the defense and
On Wednesday, 13 of 15 potential jurors were qualified for
“It just seems like some jurors are harder to seat than others.
This was one of those days,” prosecutor Paul Ebert said after court
adjourned for the day.
Facing a series of questions from defense attorneys, several
potential jurors said they think Muhammad is guilty, even though
they had previously said they had not formed an opinion about his
guilt or innocence.
“From all the evidence at the time, I think he’s guilty,” said
one woman, Juror 318. All jurors were identified in court by number
to protect their privacy.
Another juror was disqualified because her husband works at the
Virginia Beach jail and has contact with Muhammad. Three were
disqualified because they said they could not impose the death
penalty or must be absolutely certain of guilt before considering
Seven men and 13 women have qualified for the jury. The judge
must qualify seven more jurors to reach a panel of 27.
Then, prosecutors and defense attorneys each can eliminate six
jurors, leaving a jury of 12 plus three alternates.
Potential jurors have been quizzed individually about their
views on the death penalty, their exposure to pretrial news
accounts and whether they felt terrorized by the sniper spree that
killed 10 people over a three-week period.
Muhammad is charged with capital murder in the Oct. 9, 2002,
slaying of Dean Harold Meyers at a gas station near Manassas.
Opening statements are expected to begin Monday.
The trial was moved away from the Washington area to this
southeastern Virginia city after defense lawyers argued that every
northern Virginia resident could be considered a victim because the
shootings caused widespread fear.
Fellow sniper suspect Lee Boyd Malvo, 18, goes on trial
separately next month.