Before Execution, Little Sympathy for D.C. Sniper

Yet the case is re-igniting debate over the death penalty

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In 2002, John Allen Muhammad terrorized the Washington, D.C. area when he and an accomplice went on a 23-day murder spree, killing 10 people before he was apprehended. Tuesday evening, Muhammad, better known as the "DC Sniper," is to be executed for his crimes in Virginia after the Supreme Court denied Muhammad's request for an appeal. Across the political spectrum, pundits have scant sympathy for the convicted killer, but his execution has elicited a rash of opinions about capital punishment, reigniting a longstanding debate.

  • He Deserves to Die  At The Huffington Post, hardly a bastion of pro-death penalty sentiment, Tamar Abrams has no qualms about Muhammad's pending execution. "Tonight the Sniper will be strapped to a gurney and put to sleep. A man who valued human life so little will lose his own. It doesn't matter really, not to me anyway. He held us hostage in 2002 and he holds us still."Having lived through the attacks and seen the psychological impact they've had on her children, Tamar Abrams won't be shedding any tears for the DC Sniper. "He stole from our children their security and safety. He created a generation of children who know what it's like to expect danger at every turn and to see the constant worry on the face of their parents."
  • Do Executions Really Bring Closure?  As she did research for a book on capital punishment, journalist Naseem Rakha discovered that while prosecutors often promise the families of victims that the death penalty will bring closure, the process is often emotionally costly for them. She describes her findings in The Washington Post: 
I found that the promise of closure made by district attorneys and others often perpetuated the already long-lived pain that is endemic to violent loss. Typically, a death sentence results in years of legal wrangling as the defendant attempts to overturn the jury's verdict or the sentence. The process is costly and emotionally draining and usually waylays any true healing that might have taken place had there not been a constant reminder that justice had yet to be served.
  • Our Rush to Capital Punishment  At Talk Left, Jeralyn finds Virginia's penchant for the death penalty disturbing. "How anxious was Virginia to kill Muhammad? After he was tried in one VA county and got the death sentence, a prosecutor in a second county wanted to also try him, as an 'insurance policy' he'd get death."
  • Capital Punishment Is Wrong  At McClatchy, Brian Gilmore calls the death penalty "premeditated murder," and says it's "immoral whether an individual is doing the deed or the state is." Gilmore says capital punishment is not a deterrent for violent crime, is morally wrong, and has a "pronounced racial bias" in the United States. 
  • Justice  Doug Mataconis of Below the Beltway wants Muhammad dead too. "The guy is a murdering piece of scum, and, speaking as someone who lived through the month-long ordeal of wondering if there was a gun pointed at your back while you were filling up your gas tank, I’m not going to cry when he dies."
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.