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On eve of execution, Virginians broadly support penalty

With John Allen Muhammad, the mastermind of the 2002 D.C. sniper attacks, scheduled to be executed tomorrow, Virginia voters are broadly in favor of the death penalty for those convicted of murder, according to new data from a Washington Post poll.

Virginia voters favor the death penalty by a better than 2 to 1 margin, with 66 percent supportive of it, 31 percent opposed. And intensity on this issue is with the supporters: 45 percent "strongly" back capital punishment, 18 percent are that solidly opposed.

But in Northern Virginia - site of several shootings by Muhammad and Lee Boyd Malvo - a smaller majority of 56 percent backs the death penalty, compared with 71 percent in the rest of the state.

Support for capital punishment has dipped since it was a centerpiece issue in the 2005 gubernatorial campaign. Just before that vote, 72 percent of likely voters statewide said they favored the death penalty, 30 percent opposed it.

In the new poll, Republicans (82 percent support) and independents (69 percent) are more apt to favor the death penalty than are Democrats (45 percent). Support for capital punishment is also far higher among men than women (73 to 60 percent), with the gender gap sharpest among political independents (77 percent of independent men back the punishment compared with 57 percent of independent women).

There is a wide racial gap in support for the death penalty. Among whites, 72 percent support it while a majority of African Americans (56 percent) oppose it. And younger voters (59 percent among those under age 35) are less supportive than older voters (68 percent among those 35-64 and 67 percent among seniors).

If Muhammad is executed as scheduled tomorrow (a prospect which seems more likely given today's Supreme Court denial of a stay of execution), it will be the 10th execution during the tenure of Gov. Timothy M. Kaine, whose personal opposition to the death penalty prompted harsh criticism from his Republican opponent Jerry W. Kilgore during his 2005 campaign.

Q. Do you favor or oppose the death penalty for persons convicted of murder?

              --- Favor ----   --- Oppose ---
              NET   Strongly   NET   Strongly
All           66       45      31       18 

Democrat      45       27      51       30 
Republican    82       62      17       11 
Independent   69       44      28       16 

Northern VA   56       33      40       22 
Rest of state 71       50      27       16 

White         72       49      26       15 
Black         41       27      56       34 

Men           73       52      26       15 
Women         60       37      37       22 

18-34         59       40      40       22 
35-64         68       46      29       18 
65+           67       46      31       16 

By Jennifer Agiesta  |  November 9, 2009; 1:29 PM ET
Categories:  Crosstabs , Death penalty , Virginia  
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Comments

1 Northern Virginia, white Democrat, 34-65 strongly in favor of the death penalty for this individual. And make it at 1 second after midnight no sense in letting him live any longer and don't super size his last meal- his victims never got the chance.

Posted by: NICKYNUNYA | November 9, 2009 3:15 PM | Report abuse

Too bad his victims never got a chance to appeal to save THEIR lives.

Posted by: swissmiss150 | November 9, 2009 3:25 PM | Report abuse

There is no question that John Allen Muhammad deserves the ultimate punishment our free society can give to him, and there is no doubt that the victims, their families and their unnerved community deserve peace of mind, but why are we so certain that by ending his ordeal tomorrow with the prick of a needle that we are punishing him more severely than if we just have him rot away in prison for the next several decades? Study after study has also shown that it is less expensive for society to just let him rot away, too, rather than pay the expenses of a capital judgment and execution.

Posted by: montanaguite | November 9, 2009 3:28 PM | Report abuse

I pray for the day when the death penalty will no longer be accepted as part of the criminal justice system of a just, free, civilized society. Lock up the criminals and throw away the key, perhaps, but state-sanctioned murder should have no part of our justice system.

Posted by: chrisduckworth | November 9, 2009 3:45 PM | Report abuse

It is not right for the state of Virginia to put John Allen Muhammed to death tomorrow. I too lived through the nightmarish weeks of terror that he and Lee Boyd Malvo caused in Northern Virginia, but I am against any and all forms of capital punishment, regardless of the reason.

If we are truly pro-life, it applies to all circumstances, not just to the babies of this world. It is not our choice to make, and as a society we are the poorer for continuing to deal with hardened criminals in this way. Muhammed should rot in jail, but he should not die at the hands of the state--which, by the way, is us.

Posted by: lisamacey | November 9, 2009 3:50 PM | Report abuse

while I think the implementation of the death penalty needs review, it just doesn't seem right that this man get the same de facto punishment as a white collar criminal who got consecutive sentences.

some people deserve to die for their crimes. this man is among them

Posted by: j762 | November 9, 2009 4:36 PM | Report abuse

Thomas Stewart Von Drashek Remember, Police Chief Moose from Baltimore, Believe John Mohammed Is Being railRoaded thru System To Cover Up chief Moose Involment in Killing spree as Enabler. Spoke with Chief Moose At Secuurity Computing sympossium in 2004 & has lines that leave Little doubt. Now Name IS Completely Forgotten, yet Baltimore Honorable Mayor went On trial today for Fraud & Perjury.

Posted by: ThomasStewart1 | November 9, 2009 6:20 PM | Report abuse

Those in favor of putting people in jail to ROT are forgetting that it takes a little more than just throwing them in there. Once a person has been sentenced to life without parole, he then has a license to do whatever he wishes. Prison inmates and staff are at the mercy of these predators. What is the system going to do with a lifer when he kills? Give him more time? Put him on double secret probation? Putting people in to rot is no sure thing either. Look at the backpedaling now going on with children who murdered and were sentenced to life. There is "concern" that maybe society was too harsh on these kiddie killers. There may come a day, if John Mohammed and Lee Malvo were sentenced to life that they would be considered "rehabilitated" one day and released. In homicides and other serious injury type crimes there is WAY too much concern over the suspect and not enough about the victims.

Posted by: fraudcop | November 9, 2009 8:43 PM | Report abuse

No wonder Virginia elected a member of the Taliban as governor. They still have those solid 15th-century values.

I'm surprised they allow students to learn that the earth is not the center of the solar system.

KILL! KILL! KILL! And KILL SOME MORE! Bloodshed will make everything better.

Posted by: B2O2 | November 9, 2009 9:04 PM | Report abuse

I a little surprised by these numbers.

Obviously if anyone ever deserved the DP its this piece of crap Muhammad.

Personally I don't believe we should have the dp. If you are for the dp then you are saying that our govorment is competent enought to administer it fairly and correctly all of the time. Clearly this is just not the case. We fail on both accounts and therefore execute innocent people. So given that we know this, I can't be for it and I have a hard time understanding howw others are.

Posted by: Jaymand | November 9, 2009 9:21 PM | Report abuse

The Death Penalty has never stopped the killing of others. In the end we just show the killer that we are like him/her. If killing the perpretrator brought back the victim then that might make sense. It's interesting how we have this commandment that says Thou Shalt Not Kill. Yet we choose to make exceptions when it is convenient. Go ahead and do it, just not in my name.

Posted by: fabricmaven1 | November 9, 2009 10:06 PM | Report abuse

"No wonder Virginia elected a member of the Taliban as governor. They still have those solid 15th-century values."

Governor Kaine is the head of the Democratic National Committee. Is he a member of the Taliban too?

Posted by: GRILLADES | November 9, 2009 10:08 PM | Report abuse

If someone could come up with a better way than capital punishment let the world know. We only need 1 thing, a 100% gaurantee that the killer would never harm anyone ever again.

Posted by: halfhajj | November 10, 2009 1:26 PM | Report abuse

I'm very shocked at some of these comments. This man does not deserve to waste our tax dollars anymore. We pay to give him food and clothes? Execute this piece of garbage and we can move on with our lives. He did nothing but terrorize people fore 3 weeks and some people are defending the death penalty. Thank god he was tried in VA and not just MD. The victims didn't get to "appeal" there deaths now did they?

Posted by: crept | November 10, 2009 3:58 PM | Report abuse

My views are traditionally liberal in nature but I firmly believe in the death penalty. The people this monster killed were just going about their daily lives and had the most precious thing they had taken away - their lives. Their deaths left behind nothing but grief for their families - their loved ones will NEVER be able to forget what was happened. They may not find closure in this but what matters is a presence of pure evil will be removed from the face of the earth. Don't cry for John Allen Muhammad - he's getting what he deserves.

Posted by: whodeytink | November 10, 2009 6:36 PM | Report abuse

"Muhammad died by injection at 9:11 p.m. at Greensville Correctional Center in Jarratt, prison spokesman Larry Traylor said."
9:11 -- poetic justice!

Posted by: AdamSmith2 | November 10, 2009 10:22 PM | Report abuse

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