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?