Sniper suspect John Muhammed is acting as his own lawyer, telling jurors he had nothing to do with the shootings that killed 10 people and terrorized Washington a year ago. The suprise request to represent himself came after Muhammad’s presentation followed prosecutor James Willett’s statement, which began when Willett silently pulled a .223 Bushmaster rifle from a duffle bag and stood it up on the prosecution table. This automatic weapon has been linked to the 13 Washington-area shootings, including 10 murders, and was found in a blue Chevrolet Caprice where Muhammad and Lee Malvo, who faces a separate murder trial next month, were arrested on Oct. 24, 2002.

U.S. sniper suspect John Muhammad, acting as his own lawyer in his murder trial on Monday, told jurors he had “nothing to do with” a series of shootings that killed 10 people and terrorized Washington a year ago.

The unexpected presentation by Muhammad in the first trial stemming from the three-week sniper siege came shortly after he made a surprise request to represent himself.

“The evidence, if we monitor step by step … it will show that I had nothing to do with these crimes … Right now my life and my son’s life is on the line,” Muhammad said in a rambling half-hour opening statement.

When he referred to “my son,” he said later he meant Lee Malvo, his young traveling companion, who is linked to the same shootings and faces trial in a separate murder case next month.

Muhammad faces two murder counts as well as conspiracy and weapons charges in the Oct. 9, 2002, shooting death of 53-year-old Dean Meyers, who was gunned down as he refueled his car in Manassas, Virginia.

If convicted, Muhammad, a 42-year-old Gulf War veteran, could be sentenced either to execution or to life in prison without parole. Judge LeRoy Millette said Muhammad would be treated as any other attorney.

Willet also displayed photographs of the Chevrolet Caprice, noting that the vehicle was set up as a sniper’s nest, with a hole cut in the back of the trunk to allow the muzzle of a rifle to protrude. Another picture showed how the Bushmaster rifle was stowed behind the back seat’s padding in a hidden compartment.

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