ROCKVILLE -- John Allen Muhammad appeared frustrated and irate yesterday as expert witnesses began linking him to the 2002 sniper shootings with forensic evidence culled from the Bushmaster rifle and rifle sight found in his car when he and a young accomplice were arrested.
Muhammad raised his voice several times and made frequent objections as FBI agent Brendan Shea testified that Muhammad's DNA was conclusively found on the rifle sight and a likely match to genetic material found on the rifle butt, as well as on a pen barrel and raisin bag left behind near two shooting scenes.
The 45-year-old Gulf War veteran is on trial in Montgomery County for six killings that occurred during the October 2002 shooting rampage that left 10 dead and three wounded in the Washington region. He has been convicted and sentenced to death in Virginia for one sniper murder there.
Muhammad, who is representing himself, protested loudly as photos of pages from his car manual bearing key phrases from the threatening notes found at the scenes of some of the shootings were shown to jurors yesterday.
`Call me God'
He complained that he had not been previously shown the photos, which show the words "Call me God" scribbled in the manual - language included in notes found near three shooting scenes.
Judge James L. Ryan overruled Muhammad's objections to the car manual testimony after a lengthy bench conference in which Muhammad could frequently be heard saying his own name over the white noise used to maintain privacy. Muhammad has repeatedly claimed he has not seen items, which, like the photos of the manual, prosecutors said were provided to the defense months ago.
Muhammad, who frequently refers to himself in the third person, has represented himself since he dismissed his lawyers after they alleged that he was too mentally ill to stand trial. He is now being assisted by three Baltimore standby lawyers.
During his trial, now in its third week, Muhammad has shown some ease with courtroom terminology, making objections and politely saying, "If it please the court." As prosecutors have moved from detailing 14 shootings - all but one in the Washington area - to scientific analyses that specifically include him, Muhammad has grown testy.
He claimed that a sample of his DNA was not taken until Nov. 13, despite yesterday's testimony that samples were taken within 24 hours of his arrest on Oct. 24, 2002.
Muhammad also appeared frustrated as witnesses complained that they could not comprehend his questions.
"Did you get that DNA from quote unquote known - you have the known and the unknown - where did you get that DNA from?" Muhammad asked Shea.
After the agent protested that he did not understand the question, Ryan asked Muhammad to clarify.
"Mr. Muhammad, you have to ask your questions a little clearer because they're not as clear as they should be," Ryan said.
Muhammad led Shea through a tedious labyrinth of questions in which he confused dates and mixed technical terms. Shea remained pleasant and unruffled as Muhammad frequently interrupted him, demanded "yes" or "no" answers to complex, convoluted questions and pounded him with rephrasings of the same question.
At times, Muhammad appeared confused. "Sir, what is it you think I want to ask you?" he demanded of Shea.
Ryan, who restated many of Muhammad's questions to witnesses, appeared exasperated yesterday, biting his lip, closing his eyelids and once raising a fist in the direction of the defendant. At one point, Ryan accidentally referred to Muhammad as "Mr. Malvo."
Lee Boyd Malvo, who is expected to testify against Muhammad, is considered the junior member of the sniper team by police. Muhammad refers to Malvo, now 21, as "my son" although they are not related. The pair were pulled from Muhammad's dark blue 1990 Chevrolet Caprice at an Interstate 70 rest stop on Oct. 24, 2002, and charged in the sniper shootings.
Malvo is serving life sentences in Virginia for three sniper shootings there, two of which were fatal.
An FBI expert testified that John Allen Muhammad's DNA was on the sight of the Bushmaster rifle found in his car when he was arrested, and that Muhammad was a "potential" DNA match to genetic material culled from a raisin bag and a pen barrel found near shooting scenes as well as on the rifle.
"Call me God," a code phrase used by the snipers, was found in the manual to Muhammad's Chevrolet Caprice, an FBI document examiner testified.
Muhammad, acting as his own lawyer, grew openly frustrated during cross-examinations as the prosecution's expert witnesses said they did not understand his questions. TODAY: Prosecutors are expected to continue with forensic experts tying the .223-caliber Bushmaster rifle to the shootings.