Sniper Down Again


John Allen Muhammad has been convicted on six more counts of murder in the 2002 Beltway sniper shootings. Muhammad continues the multitrial losing streak of defendants who act as their own counsel, with this proceeding's high point being the news that Muhammad planned to retire after one last job and start a terrorist training camp in the Great White North.

Reason gave live team coverage to the sniper spree back in aught-two. Chuck Freund analyzed the gruesome spectacle and pondered the clumsy secretiveness of Montgomery County Police Chief Charles Moose. Nick Gillespie brought in Inspector Dupin for a confoundingly cacophonous conjecture. Just before Muhammad's arrest, Jesse Walker wondered whether any of us would escape the sniper's trap. And just after, Brian Doherty announced: "The real story of the sniper is, we hope, over. Let the stories about the story begin."

It turns out, however, that there really weren't many stories about the story. The story of Muhammad and sidekick Lee Boyd Malvo has attracted relatively little public interest since the arrest—as Chief Moose found out with his ill-considered decision to trade police work for the life of an author and celebrity. I have paid little mind to the case since the arrest, and in fact had incorrectly slotted it with the Chapel Hill SUV attack, the El-Al shooting at LAX, and other such incidents that you're not allowed to refer to as "terrorism" despite all common sense. (It turns out Muhammad was convicted, among other things, under an antiterrorism statute.) So there's my koan for the day: Why did the trial of the equally insane but less blooded (personally, anyway) Zacarias Moussaoui capture the nation's attention, while Muhammad has faded into obscurity?

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  1. At the time, I thought that there was a possibility that the sniper attacks were a test run, and feared that similar attacks might show up elsewhere around the country.

    But that was based on an assumption that we were dealing with al Qaeda nutjobs, instead of homegrown ones.

    Thank God (or Allah) for small favors.

  2. What tommyrot, BDW. Muhammed and Malvo turned out not to be part of a larger organization that’s devoted to our national destruction.

    Their race was completely immaterial, and I’m really pretty shocked to see anyone even drag that into the discussion.

  3. Why did the trial of the equally insane but less blooded (personally, anyway) Zacarias Moussaoui capture the nation’s attention, while Muhammad has faded into obscurity?

    Is it because media people perceive that their audience has moved to the right since September 11? …and one spins as a poster boy for all the reasons we should support the Bush Administration in the War on Terror and the other spins as an argument against the Second Amendment?

  4. Why did the trial of the equally insane but less blooded (personally, anyway) Zacarias Moussaoui capture the nation’s attention, while Muhammad has faded into obscurity?

    Taking you literally for a moment, if it is a “koan”, isnt any attempt at a rational answer a waste of time?

    Anyway, I would guess the invasion of Iraq put it to bed to some degree..

    Or probably that we’re just *emabarrassed* by our homegrown nutjobs… He didnt fit into the meta-story of “people want to kill us cause they hate who we are”. He WAS who we are. Thats not a very comforting thought.


  5. I don’t think it’s unusual for us to stop paying attention post-conviction. He’s toast. Adding butter and jelly years later doesn’t make his continued existence more interesting or newsworthy.

  6. Maybe the John Muhammed trials didn’t attract much attention because though he apparently isn’t much of an attorney, as a criminal defendant he did everything right — he didn’t talk to the cops or anybody else. At least that’s how I remember it.

    So he wasn’t feeding the news cycle, unlike Zacharias M., whose pronouncements got more nutty and contradictory as they went along.

  7. I followed, but noticed that many others were not (even in the DC area). I suspect as ProL mentions, the fact that this was a followup and the guy is already sentenced to death in VA, probably had something to do with it.

    As for his legal self-defense comedy skills, he ain’t no Colin Ferguson, as Bill Clinton and John Elway could likely attest.

  8. Because “there hasn’t been a terrorist attack on the US mainland since 9/11, thanks to the President’s leadership”. Therefore, Malvo can’t have been a terrorist. Therefore he’s not interesting.

  9. Maybe the problem in the world is no Arab Islamics but Islam itself.

    Just a thought.

    AS Robert Spences says: There are moderate Muslims. There is no moderate Islam

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