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CNN BREAKING NEWS

Prosecutor Speaks on Muhammad Verdict

Aired November 24, 2003 - 11:12   ET

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

CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: The prosecutor has just come out. Let's hear what he has to say.
PAUL EBERT, PROSECUTOR: Everybody ready? As you know the jury has returned a verdict and we are of course pleased with the verdict. It's not a verdict that like all cases that we take any pleasure in, per se, but there are certain cases in which deserve the death penalty. And we feel that this was one of them.

As we said from the get-go, the death penalty is reserved for the worst of the worst. And we think Mr. Muhammad fell in that category and the jury agreed. And we want to thank the people of Virginia Beach for giving up their time they have been so gracious to us. It couldn't have been a better place.

And I want you to know that this case could not have been successfully prosecuted but for all these folks that are up here with me today. They made it very easy. And I know that all of you have followed this case, realize what a yeoman's job they did. This was a circumstantial case. And they had to to gather this evidence and put it together and in a meaningful way. They did that.

I have had, in all my years, I never been in a case that had this much cooperation, this much evidence and this much cohesion to put this evidence before a jury.

And I think all of you would agree that at the conclusion, because of their hard work, there was no doubt that Mr. Muhammad committed these atrocious acts. There's no doubt that he and his companion wreaked terror the entire metropolitan area of Washington, D.C., and there's no doubt he had plans for other places, including the Tide Water Area.

When they said, "Your children are not safe" they meant it. And I'm happy to say because of this verdict maybe our children will be safe.

I'll try to take any questions that you might have.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE)

EBERT: What's that?

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE)

EBERT: I don't intend to. I never have. If I could be of some assistance in that regard I said I'd do that. But just to go down and watch somebody die, does not appeal to me.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE)

EBERT: Well, you know, all I know is the history of what's happened in the past. Virginia has been criticized for being so fast, six to seven years. To me, that's not fast.

They get every -- the accused gets the benefit of every legal step and every legal counsel that they can have. That's right. But nevertheless, the death penalty is available. And I think that the appellate process will take its course and sooner or later justice will be served.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE)

EBERT: Well, you know, I have been in this business a long time. No one knows what's going on in the jury's mind.

I thought from the get-go that most people -- any how, I thought that most people would agree that this was a vile crime and most people would agree that he -- that he represented a future danger to society.

But, you know, it's tough for anybody. It's tough for us as prosecutors to ask for the death penalty and it's even tougher for jurors when they get in there to do their duty. It's a tough decision. And they wrestled with it. And it only takes one to not agree that that's the appropriate punishment.

So you know, whatever the jury decided, I would be happy to accept. I think we put this case before the best we could. And they're the folks that make this system great and they are the folks who decided what they did.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE)

EBERT: I'm not -- at this juncture I won't go into that. I think your guess is as good as mine. We had the evidence. The evidence was before you. You probably -- he probably had multiple motives.

And one thing's for sure, they took pleasure in terrorizing people, they took pleasure in killing people. And that's the kind of man that doesn't deserve to be in society.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE)

EBERT: What's that?

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE)

EBERT: Well we have charged Mr. Malvo and when our time comes, we intend to try him. I don't know who will be next in line, if anybody. But, we don't make that decision. And we'll cross that bridge when we come to it.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE)

EBERT: I can't answer that question. That's going to be up to the court to determine where the case will be tried in the future, if and when we do try Mr. Malvo.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE)

EBERT: What's that?

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE)

EBERT: I would expect to. I can't speak for him, but I know they have expressed an interest in it. Some indictments have been turned down in a number of jurisdictions, Louisiana, Alabama, Maryland. So I would expect that they will go forward. But I can't speak for those folks.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE)

EBERT: I can't answer that question. I'm not...

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE)

EBERT: Yes, it's a -- it's a victory for society, I think. And I'm hopeful that we can send a message to other people who might be like-minded. And I'm hopeful that justice -- the American system of justice will be known to the world as what it is, the best in the world, and a system that works.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE)

EBERT: Yes, I can't comment on that. That will be for the Chesapeake jury. I don't think it would be proper for me to talk about the proper disposition in his case.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE)

EBERT: Well I think it's part of the war on terrorism. I think that terrorism exists in this nation as well as others. And this type of conduct and the attempt to intimidate the government and attempt to influence the government of this nation can't be tolerated. No matter whether it's here or abroad.

So I think from that standpoint, the jury got the message, and I think they returned it very accordingly.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE)

EBERT: Well Mr. Holmes was one of many. He happened to be someone who knew the defendant, personally. And he was a person that came forward and continued to be his friend.

It's strange in this case that knowing what he had done, he had so many friends come forward, some of them on behalf of the Commonwealth, most of them on his behalf. But, nevertheless, he was able to manipulate people. And like most people, he had a side to him other than a side that committed these atrocious crimes. And it's one thing that make him so dangerous. That he was so friendly to people, so cordial.

And in his own a way he was smart. He knew how to manipulate people. I think he tried to manipulate the jury. You know, you've heard that argument. And I talked enough, I think.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE)

EBERT: Well I think it's another attempt to influence the jury. You know, reading those letters, no doubt his children love him. And they will continue to love him.

But, he didn't love our children. He didn't love those people that he killed and planned to kill. So, it -- you know, it's a part of -- a part of life that the jury saw. I think the jury got to see all the good there was in him, and there wasn't enough.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE)

EBERT: I can't hear you. Wait a minute.

COSTELLO: You are listening to the Prince William County Commonwealth Attorney Paul Ebert talking about the jury's decision to give John Allen Muhammad, the convicted D.C. sniper, death.

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