Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Q&A: Why convicted sniper John Allen Muhammad was executed so quickly

Sniper John Allen Muhammad was executed just 68 months after sentencing.

Associated Press

Sniper John Allen Muhammad was executed just 68 months after sentencing.

Virginia courts move quickly

Related News/Archive

Why was the Washington sniper John Allen Muhammad executed so quickly, when it takes some prisoners many more years before being executed?

The Christian Science Monitor reported that Muhammad's 68 months between sentencing and execution Nov. 10 was about half the typical duration for death-penalty cases. Its analysis of 2007 Bureau of Justice Statistics data found that it takes an average of 153 months between sentencing and execution.

One factor was the speed of which these cases are handled in Virginia, where former U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft sent Muhammad and accomplice Lee Boyd Malvo to be tried. David Bruck, director of the Virginia Capital Case Clearinghouse at the Washington and Lee University School of Law, told the paper that the Virginia Supreme Court hears appeals rapidly.

Another factor was that many of the problems that lead to reversals and delays in death penalty cases in any state arise from the fact that many defendants suffer from severely inadequate representation, which can lead to questions over determinations of guilt and imposing the death penalty, said Anne S. Emanuel, a law professor at Georgia State University. High-profile defendants like Muhammad are far more likely to be well represented at trial, she said.

Malvo, meanwhile, is serving multiple life sentences without the possibility of parole.

Feedback to slower lane Q&A

Several writers had a different interpretation of a question from the Nov. 24 column about driving the speed limit in the left lane of a two-lane highway and whether that would warrant a ticket.

Some felt that the writer had a "holier than thou" attitude and was trying to control speeders. That "blocking" often leads to accidents stemming from frustration, they said.

Another writer, a retired police officer, points out that the issue is not so much speeding as it is improper lane usage. He wrote: "There are several valid reasons for not driving in the left lane, even if you are at the speed limit. (It's) common sense: You're in the left lane, there's no traffic ahead of you, there's traffic behind you and/or you're being passed on the right, you are in the wrong lane. Move right."

Indeed, Florida Statute 316.081 states that you must drive on the right lane of a multilane highway unless passing another driver or if there is an obstruction in the road. The pertinent reference:

"Upon all roadways, any vehicle proceeding at less than the normal speed of traffic at the time and place and under the conditions then existing shall be driven in the right-hand lane then available for traffic or as close as practicable to the right-hand curb or edge of the roadway except when overtaking and passing another vehicle proceeding in the same direction or when preparing for a left turn at an intersection or into a private road or driveway."

Q&A: Why convicted sniper John Allen Muhammad was executed so quickly 12/21/09 [Last modified: Monday, December 21, 2009 10:50pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Trump sprinkles political attacks into Scout Jamboree speech

    GLEN JEAN, W.Va. — Ahead of President Donald Trump's appearance Monday at the National Scout Jamboree in West Virginia, the troops were offered some advice on the gathering's official blog: Fully hydrate. Be "courteous" and "kind." And avoid the kind of divisive chants heard during the 2016 campaign such as "build …

    President Donald Trump addresses the Boy Scouts of America's 2017 National Scout Jamboree at the Summit Bechtel National Scout Reserve in Glen Jean, W.Va., July 24, 2017. [New York Times]
  2. Trump, seething about attorney general, speculates about firing Sessions, sources say

    WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump has spoken with advisers about firing Attorney General Jeff Sessions, as he continues to rage against Sessions' decision to recuse himself from all matters related to the Russia investigation.

  3. John McCain to return to Senate for health care vote

    WASHINGTON — The Senate plans to vote Tuesday to try to advance a sweeping rewrite of the nation's health-care laws with the last-minute arrival of Sen. John McCain — but tough talk from President Donald Trump won no new public support from skeptical GOP senators for the flagging effort that all but …

  4. Last orca calf born in captivity at a SeaWorld park dies


    ORLANDO — The last killer whale born in captivity under SeaWorld's former orca-breeding program died Monday at the company's San Antonio, Texas, park, SeaWorld said.

    Thet orca Takara helps guide her newborn, Kyara, to the water's surface at SeaWorld San Antonio in San Antonio, Texas, in April. Kyara was the final killer whale born under SeaWorld's former orca-breeding program. The Orlando-based company says 3-month-old Kyara died Monday. [Chris Gotshall/SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment via AP]
  5. Blake Snell steps up, but Rays lose to Orioles anyway (w/video)

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — Blake Snell stepped up when he had to Monday and delivered an impressive career-high seven-plus innings for the Rays. That it wasn't enough in what ended up a 5-0 loss to the Orioles that was their season-high fifth straight is symptomatic of the mess they are in right now.

    Tim Beckham stands hands on hips after being doubled off first.