As he has throughout the six-week trial, Muhammad showed no visible reaction as a court clerk read the decision aloud in a hushed courtroom. He stood behind the defense table, his hands clasped before him, and stared ahead impassively.
The jury of seven women and five men reached the decision after deliberating five and a half hours over two days. Virginia law requires that a death sentence be unanimous. The jury had shown signs of some division Friday, asking in a note to the judge what would happen if they could not reach a unanimous decision.
But whatever differences existed, they were gone today. The jury began its deliberations today just after 9 a.m. and announced it had reached a verdict a few minutes before 10:30.
The jury found Muhammad posed a risk for future danger and that his conduct was vile — Virginia’s two aggravating factors for a death sentence. One by one, each juror acknowledged their unanimous decision aloud in the courtroom.
Judge LeRoy F. Millette Jr. will formally sentence Muhammad in February. Under Virginia law, a judge has the option to reduce a jury’s recommended death sentence to life in prison. But that is a rarity and not expected in this case, which was steered by top U.S. Justice Department officials to Virginia because of the state’s track record in securing death sentences.
Muhammad will join 27 other inmates on Virginia’s death row in Waverly, Va., at the Sussex I State Prison. With the state’s rapid appeals system, the average time in Virginia between sentencing and execution is about four years. Virginia death row inmates are executed by injection unless they choose electrocution.