Later, in comments to reporters outside the courthouse, Ebert disagreed. The prosecutor said, "Counsel for the defense says he sees no evil in his client. I can't agree with that. I see nothing but evil."
But Muhammad's life came unhinged when his wife left him and later moved to Maryland with their three children. While initially sharing custody, Muhammad had illegally taken the children to Antigua for almost a year. His wife gained full custody and secretly took the children to live with relatives in Clinton.
"He was not born evil, he is not a virus, he is not the devil," Shapiro said. "He was born a child who became a man, and many things had an impact on him. The point is simply that if he is, as the jury has found, a killer, he was for 40 years someone completely different. If someone can change all that and become a killer, then time can change all that back again."
Shapiro added: "We can, judge, I think as a society fully accept the horror of these murders and yet take a stand that further killing is not right. Killing John Muhammad only serves to make more children fatherless. To kill John Muhammad is just adding others to the ranks of those in pain."
But many of those already in pain urged for his execution in letters sent to the court before sentencing. Two relatives of the victims also testified in court yesterday. Franklin's daughter, Katrina Hannum, said the loss of her mother was impossible to describe. Hannum was pregnant with her first child when Franklin was killed.
"I miss my mom," she said through tears. "She was a beautiful, amazing woman who had nothing but love, and I miss her every day. The one piece of light in my life is my little boy, and she misses all of that. That is so wrong. That is so unfair."
The other relative to testify was Larry Meyers, the oldest brother of Dean Meyers, a Gaithersburg engineer who was shot as he stopped on his way home from work in Manassas. Larry Meyers recalled how his brother had survived a sniper shooting in Vietnam and received the Purple Heart.
"I can hear his voice now more than ever," he said. "He had this great laugh. He was one of the most humorous, generous, kind, loving people you can ever meet. ... We had so many great moments. My only regret is we'll be deprived of so many more I had looked forward to - they're just not there."
Muhammad first met Malvo in Antigua in 2001 when he had taken his children there. Malvo, who was born in Jamaica, had moved to Antigua with his mother. He quickly took to Muhammad, who became the father Malvo never had, and moved in with him when his mother left for Florida.
Later, Muhammad and Malvo would reunite in Washington state, where the older man taught the boy to shoot, put him on a strict diet and exercise regimen, and showed him violent movies including The Matrix. The first killing linked to them occurred Feb. 16, 2002, when Malvo shot a woman in the face in Tacoma.
They would eventually be linked to 13 more killings and six shootings across the country, culminating with the sniper rampage in the Washington area. The two were caught asleep in their blue Chevrolet Caprice at an Interstate 70 rest stop in Frederick County about 3 a.m. Oct. 24, 2002.
Inside the car was a .223-caliber Bushmaster semiautomatic rifle - the weapon later determined to have fired the bullets that killed 11 people - found in the fire mode, with its safety off and a live round of ammunition in the chamber.