ROCKVILLE—With his murder trial entering its final days, John Allen Muhammad's once-confident tone gave way yesterday to frustration and confusion as his witnesses failed to poke holes in the elaborate case put on by prosecutors and the judge refused to extend the deadline to permit him to bring in witnesses from out of state.
Muhammad, 45, stood slouching and subdued, a sharp contrast to his behavior earlier in the week when he shouted at prosecutors and belittled his alleged former accomplice Lee Boyd Malvo.
In his opening statement, the Gulf War veteran told jurors that he and Malvo are innocent.
He said he would complete his defense presentation today and decide whether to call himself as a witness, a risky tactic that would open him to questioning by prosecutors.
"He's going to testify and say he didn't do it? And then on cross-examination they will make him look like an idiot," said University of Maryland law professor Abraham Dash, who is not involved in the case.
Because of constitutional protections against self-incrimination, prosecutors cannot call defendants to the witness stand but can question them if they testify. Given how poorly the case has gone for Muhammad, it might not matter, Dash said.
"He has nothing to lose by testifying. Or anything to gain," he said.
Most of the witnesses Muhammad asked court officials to summon never materialized. He missed the deadlines Montgomery County Circuit Judge James L. Ryan set to submit names of expert witnesses, and failed to provide enough information for subpoenas of others.
Of the eight who had testified through yesterday, three said they came to court reluctantly and one tried to ignore the subpoena but was brought to court by one of Muhammad's standby attorneys.
One went so far as to say that she hopes that jurors will not be swayed by her words.
"I'm hoping that my testimony amounts to nothing compared to the other evidence against him," witness Heidi Mansen said outside the courtroom yesterday. She said that she believes Muhammad is guilty.
Mansen testified that she saw a red car speeding away from the scene of one of the sniper shootings, although officers later determined that the car was not involved in the crime.
"I felt bad because I pointed out the wrong person," Mansen said. "Just because I saw something doesn't mean that really happened."
Another witness, Robert Metzger of Greenbelt, said he was summoned to court Tuesday but ignored the subpoena until one of Muhammad's standby lawyers, J. Wyndal Gordon, came to his home yesterday to take him to the courthouse.
He testified that he saw two adult men, one white and one possibly Hispanic, praying on the ground at Benjamin Tasker Middle School in Bowie three days before Iran Brown was shot there.
"What this has to do with this, I don't know," Metzger said while on the witness stand.
"That guy killed a lot of people," Metzger said outside the courtroom. "If I had my way, I wouldn't even be here."
Muhammad has flubbed his interrogation of police detectives, his questions cut short by a volley of sustained objections. Ryan denied a motion to consider out-of-state witnesses after Muhammad missed several deadlines.