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CNN BREAKING NEWS

Jurors Reaction to Case, Muhammad was Normal

Aired November 24, 2003 - 11:51   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: We want to bring in our legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin right now as we listen to more of the jurors from the John Allen Muhammad case.
Jeffrey, what strikes me, all of these jurors want to say something. They're all appearing together. Is this extraordinary?

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Jurors vary in that. There have been jurors that want to speak as a group. I remember in the Timothy McVeigh case, the jurors spoke as a group. I think it was a day later.

Jurors develop a great sense of solidarity. They're together in close quarters for a long time, they're dealing with the highest stakes that any human being with deal with, which is another life. And you can see and hear in listening to these jurors how much they struggled with this issue.

COSTELLO: Oh, they certainly did. And for those viewers just joining in, the jurors decided on a death sentence for John Allen Muhammad in the October 2002 killing spree that gripped Washington and its suburbs. And Muhammad showed absolutely no sign of emotion during this entire procedure. And that, Jeffrey, some of the jurors said made a difference in what they decided.

TOOBIN: Absolutely. Demeanor means a lot. And that his demeanor in the courtroom, especially since this was a jury that heard him talk during his brief tenure as a -- as his own defense lawyer, so his demeanor meant a great deal to these jurors.

And I thought it was interesting to hear from the juror who admitted he was the holdout for the life sentence. He was the one who extended the deliberations over the weekend. And what changed his mind, to join the rest of the jurors, was the -- the suggestion of another juror that it would stop the cycle of violence to have him executed. He wouldn't have the opportunity to kill anyone else.

Opponents of the death penalty say an execution is more in the cycle of violence. But that's what the jurors thought.

COSTELLO: Yes, they did. Let's go to Jeanne Meserve who's standing by in Virginia beach, Virginia. Jeanne, you were in the courtroom the whole time. Tell us about the demeanor of John Allen Muhammad.

JEANNE MESERVE, CNN HOMELAND SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Well, it was as Mr. Bowman described it for the most part. He did stare straight ahead.

I did have one conversation with someone who had been a witness in this case. And this witness told me it was a little eerie to be on the stand. That he maintained total eye contact with her the entire time that she was on the stand and she found that a bit unnerving.

He did get emotional a couple times when the children were mentioned. Sometimes he bent his head. There was one instance where we saw his jaw working, looked like he was really struggling to bring himself under control. We saw a fair amount of this last week when the defense put on its phase of the mitigation, phase of the trial.

And there were several people who had known him in a happier phase of his life. They came on to talk about what a good worker he was, what a good friend he was, what a good father he was. And during some of that testimony also he hung his head.

It's -- I can't really tell you why he did that. I'm not in that man's head. But clearly there was more of a reaction to that sort of testimony than to anything else.

He did not appear to flinch during the showing of autopsy photos or show any emotion during the playing of the 911 tapes, some of which were horrific. Through all of that, just this stone-faced, staring straight ahead, taking in what was happening around him.

There were occasionally conversations with his lawyers, but not a lot. Those were relatively brief.

For the most part he kept to himself and stared straight ahead, even when he came in and out of the courtroom he would occasionally scan the courtroom and see who was there. He'd lock eyes with a couple of us, but for the most part, he was oblivious to our presence there as well.

COSTELLO: All right, Jeanne Meserve. You stand by. Again, formal sentencing will be on February 12.

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