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November 10, 2009 / Maleesha Kovnesky

The Execution of an Urban Sniper

They executed the DC sniper today.

I’m not against the death penalty.  I also don’t stand up and cheer with poster-paint signs outside of the prison when the lights flicker.  In the case of John Allen Muhammad I just feel numb. 

There were three reasons I longed to leave the DC area and this dude was one of them.  In the space of a few short months, 9/11 happened and a plane crashed into the Pentagon.  Soon we were receiving anthrax tainted mail, and people were wrapping their homes in black plastic and duct tape in fear of “dirty bombs.” 

Then the sniper happened.  This was a whole new kind of terror.  I remember quite vividly grocery shopping trips turned into a “should I or shouldn’t I” prospect.  For three weeks, getting gas from the gas station involved some contortion and prayers, hoping that whoever he was, was picking a different gas station that day.  No one knew when and where it would happen, but people were truly afraid.

I’ve never been one to follow the stories of serial killers or crazed psychopaths…those just don’t interest me.  Since I was living there at the time, I have followed this story from the beginning.  After all, I got stuck in plenty of Beltway closures as they searched for the “white box truck” that ended up to be a false lead. 

So today they executed the remorseless maniac who ruined and stole so many lives.  Instead of being relieved, I feel nothing.  I don’t feel any inner “yays” or “you deserve its”.  I just feel a strange combination of numbness and disappointment.  I don’t believe that Muhammad cared that he was going to die.  Giving him the death penalty was a bit like slapping a masochist with a leather whip.  Take that, bitch!  

But what would have been a better punishment?  I honestly can’t think of one.  Torture isn’t the humane answer, though I imagine many families spent long hours dreaming up what they would do to this monster if only they could get him in a room alone with some power tools.  Isolation?  Probably not a bad choice, but who wants to pay to feed this guy until he dies of old age?  No one can argue that removing him from society was necessary.  I’m sad for the families.  I’m sad because I will never forget the beautiful blond who was shot at the Home Depot.  Her smiling picture on the news is forever in my head.  Gone in an instant, and not by accident.  Accidents are tragedies, but accidents are part of life and therefore we tend to process them easier.  This kind of death is unfair and unacceptable. 

Not every situation has a solution though.  Some things we are just forced to accept, the way the families and friends of the sniper’s victims were forced to accept their tragic losses.  People tend to want to find a solution…to tie up things with a bow and call it finished.  There is no bow to tie on Muhammad’s execution.  His death isn’t just because death isn’t a punishment to him.  There’s no justice in a case like this, and it’s something we have to accept.  If we do find it in ourselves to strive for a solution, the only bow we can tie on is to ensure this doesn’t happen again by raising our children the absolute best way we know how.



Leave a Comment
  1. David / Nov 24 2009 2:18 pm

    Nicely written post maleesha. This execution is our best attempt to provide closure to wounds that cannot be healed. Not a solution, but maybe a resolution, a terminal node in the yet-to-be-ended story of the evil workers on the planet recklessly trashing lives every day.

  2. smalltownsmalltimes / Nov 20 2009 7:15 am

    I had forgetten all about this guy. I can’t imagine what it was like to live in DC at the time. Now after your post, I sort of can.

    I think numb is probably a good way to feel about his death. Frankly, I’m don’t think he deserves much more.

  3. morethananelectrician / Nov 11 2009 2:22 pm

    Yes. Well said. They moved his trial right up the street…so he could be ensured a fair trial. It is one of the good things about this country, despite its’ visible flaws, that this man could get a fair trial. This is one of the states that allows such a severe penalty. Right or wrong, Virginia’s use of the death penalty is not a secret.

    “Numb” is a good word to describe this.

  4. Taoist Biker / Nov 11 2009 6:40 am

    Well said, madam.

That's what she said!

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