Lawyers for teenage sniper suspect Lee Boyd Malvo contend last year's killing spree was part of a plan by Muhammad to kill his ex-wife — an argument the prosecutor called "nonsense."
Mildred Muhammad testified at Malvo's capital murder trial Monday that she saw the car on Oct. 11, 2002 — one week after the Washington, D.C.-area sniper shootings began — near her home in the Washington suburbs as she left for work. The passenger concealed his face behind a newspaper.
"The driver just sat and stared," she said, though she apparently did not recognize him.
She called 911 and told the dispatcher that a dark car — either a Chevrolet Impala or a Caprice — with New Jersey tags was outside her house and seemed suspicious. It was not immediately clear what action, if any, was taken by law enforcement.
Mildred Muhammad's description would match the car authorities say her ex-husband modified to serve as a "killing platform."
Malvo's lawyers are presenting an insanity defense, claiming the 42-year-old Muhammad brainwashed their teenage client and molded him into a killer. They contend Muhammad planned to kill his ex-wife and make it look as if she were the random victim of a sniper so he could regain custody of his children.
John Muhammad is refusing to testify in Malvo's trial, invoking his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination, Malvo defense lawyer Craig Cooley said Monday.
Muhammad's trial ended last week with a jury recommending the death sentence, but he still faces prosecution in other states. The pair are charged or suspected in the killing of 10 people and the wounding of six in the Washington-area sniper spree, along with shootings in Washington state, Arizona, Georgia, Alabama and Louisiana.
CBS News legal analyst Andrew Cohen had been skeptical that Muhammad would actually appear.
"The only way Muhammad takes the stand and testifies in favor of Malvo is if Muhammad himself makes a decision that he is doomed anyway following his conviction and death sentence recommendation, so he might as well help out the young man," Cohen said.
Malvo's lawyers had hoped to put Muhammad on the stand this week, and asked Monday that he still appear so jurors could see him.
"A picture speaks a thousand words. A human form standing in a courtroom speaks even more," Cooley said outside the courtroom.
Circuit Judge Jane Marum Roush said she saw no need for Muhammad to make a silent appearance, though she urged the prosecution and defense to try to find a solution.
"Transporting (prisoners) around the state willy-nilly should be done sparingly" because of security risks, she said.
Fairfax County Commonwealth's Attorney Robert F. Horan Jr. objected to much of Mildred Muhammad's testimony, saying the argument that she was a target is "nonsense."
"It is absolutely a red herring in this case," Horan said.
Malvo, in statements to police, said the killings were part of a scheme to extort $10 million from the government.
Muhammad's prosecutors were prevented from making the argument about Mildred Muhammad because the judge ruled there was a lack of evidence to support it.
Horan was successful in barring testimony from Mildred Muhammad that her ex-husband had threatened to kill her in 2000 by telling her "you have become my enemy and as my enemy I will kill you." Prosecutors said the statement was hearsay.
Malvo's lawyers also played an audiotape of the event they say triggered the sniper rampage: the September 2001 custody hearing in which Muhammad lost his children.
Muhammad speaks very little during the hearing in Tacoma, Wash., in which a judge grants immediate custody of the three children to Mildred Muhammad. Authorities had taken the children from him and placed them in protective custody five days earlier.