Virginia continues to build case against sniper with physical evidence

Posted 5:30pm November 6

by Nell McGarity
U-WIRE Washington Bureau

The prosecution continued to call expert witnesses in an effort to link John Allen Muhammad to the physical evidence in the slayings that paralyzed the Washington Metro area last year.

On Wednesday, Charles Coleman of the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms testified that he found fingerprints of Lee Boyd Malvo on the .223-caliber Bushmaster rifle, but none of Muhammad’s.

The pattern of the fingerprints were not in firing position and indicated that Malvo had been holding the gun upside down. The gun was found in the trunk of Muhammad’s Chevrolet Caprice when the suspects were arrested.

The goal of the prosecution is to establish that Muhammad had a role in multiple killings and that the spree was a form of terrorism –both are essential conditions for the death penalty in Virginia.

“The prints will not push back the case at all,” said legal expert Eric S Sirulnik at George Washington University. “[This] suggests that he had a knowledge of Malvo’s activities and of the gun.”

Sirulnik explained that this knowledge would still help the prosecution reach the death penalty.

“The state has a tremendous case so far, and are still in great shape in terms of the death penalty,” said Sirulnik.

An expert witness also linked Muhammad to the rifle with DNA evidence that was found on the sight and stock of the rifle.

The witness, Brendan Shea, said that there was a one-in-210 chance that the DNA that was on the stock was that of a random African-American and not Muhammad, where there was a one-in-21 chance that it was not Muhammad’s DNA on the sight.

Witness Una James, Lee Boyd Malvo’s mother, was set to testify this week at the Virginia Beach trial; however she refused to testify if she could not meet with her son while in the United States, according to Associated Press reports. Malvo’s trial is set to begin in nearby Chesapeake, Virginia on Monday.

“I don’t know if she is critical at all. We must think of the purpose of why they would be calling her, and that is probably to make a connection. They have already done that,” said Sirulnik.

James, a Jamaican native, is believed to have purchased false identification papers from Muhammad in Antigua for herself and her son and used them as a means to enter the United States illegally. She is also believed to be responsible for introducing Muhammad and Malvo.

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