BBC: It seems to be all about timing. “Nine eleven” is the local time at which John Allen Muhammad died, Director of Communications at the Virginia Department of Corrections Larry Traylor said.
Muhammad joked his body would be kept “to make sure I’m dead”
Five minutes is the time it took for the cocktail of chemicals to work. He was given 15 to 20 seconds to make a final statement, but chose to remain silent.
Before the execution, the media had been briefed about the exact procedure.
“The condemned man is injected first with thiopental sodium, which induces a state of unconsciousness. The second chemical, pancuronium bromide, stops the breathing. And the third – potassium chloride – stops the heart,” we learned from a statement sent by the Virginia Department of Corrections before even arriving at the prison.
And the choice Muhammad would have for his last meal?
“The inmate may select any meal, or combination of items, from the institution’s 28 day cycle menu,” another statement explained.
Muhammad chose “chicken in red sauce” and “strawberry cakes” his lawyer told us.
And there was a timing involved there, too. Muhammad would have to eat it at least four hours before the execution.
Punctually, at 2100 (0200 GMT), he was led into what is called the “death chamber”. Six state witnesses and three representatives of the media were in an adjacent room watching the execution.
Relatives of the victims were in another room, this one darkened, “to protect their privacy,” Mr Traylor said.
“He was strapped to the gurney, first by his legs, then his arms and chest,” Jon Burkett, one of the media representatives present at the execution, said.
We appreciate the fact that there were laws in place that were appropriate… and it came to a conclusion and the process worked
Bob Meyers, relative of victim
At 2107 his breathing quickened, at 2108 he was motionless, and at 2111 he was pronounced dead.
Once death had been pronounced, the curtains separating the “death chamber” from the viewing rooms were drawn and the witnesses escorted out of the room.
Muhammad’s body was driven to the medical examiner’s office, where it will be held for two days.
His lawyer told us his client had been joking about the procedure.
“‘They’ll hold my body for two days to make sure I’m dead’, is what he told me,” J Wyndal Gordon said.
Mr Traylor did not reveal where Muhammad’s last journey would take him. “The condemned man can make requests for what will happen to his body, but that is private.”
What is clear is that the journey that led him to Greenville Correctional Center began seven years earlier a couple of hours’ drive north on Interstate 95.
For three weeks, Muhammad spread fear and terror around the DC area, targeting random residents with his then teenage accomplice, Lee Boyd Malvo.
The two had even adapted their car, cutting a hole in its bodywork to fit their rifle.
Rebecca Curtis, 26, was living in Fairfax County at the time. One of the shootings happened just three blocks from her house. She remembers the fear she felt, but does not think the death penalty is the right answer.
“I saw what everyone else is so afraid of and this doesn’t change it, this doesn’t fix it, this doesn’t solve anything.”