DALLAS — A father who told two of his sons to pretend they were swimming as he drowned them in a Dallas-area creek was sentenced to death on Thursday.
The Dallas County jury took about 3 1/2 hours to sentence Naim Rasool Muhammad. The same jury had taken less than 10 minutes to find Muhammad guilty of capital murder last week after hearing testimony from the mother of the two drowned boys, 5-year-old Naim and 3-year-old Elijah. They also watched a video of Muhammad, 34, describing the killings to a police detective.
Muhammad killed Naim and Elijah in August 2011. Authorities say he forced the boys and their mother, Kametra Sampson, into a car and started driving. It was supposed to be Naim's first day of school.
Sampson was able to jump out of the car and alert a nearby county constable, who did not chase Muhammad but called police.
As officers launched a manhunt, Muhammad took the boys to a creek in Glenn Heights, outside Dallas. He described what happened next in a videotaped interview played in court and quoted by The Dallas Morning News.
He described the last moments with the boys near the creek. Naim said, "I love you, Daddy."
Then, he told his sons to sit down. "Play like y'all swimming," he said, before pushing their faces into the water.
Muhammad was seen crying in court. Some jurors stared at him, while others focused on the video screens showing the interview.
According to the video, Muhammad was angry at Sampson for breaking up with him. Sampson testified that he "started getting all sweet" when they spotted the constable after he had forced her and the boys into the car.
She ended up getting out and running toward the constable, yelling, "He's going to kill my kids," according to the Morning News.
Muhammad's mother later called 911 to say her son had drowned the boys and that she had their unresponsive bodies.
Court records show Muhammad had a history of violence. Sampson told jurors that Muhammad routinely beat her, often for things as small as burning rice. Texas Child Protective Services officials said they were monitoring Sampson and the couple's three children after receiving a report of family violence.
In closing arguments, prosecutor Tammy Kemp called Muhammad "a monster" and "100 percent pure evil." That angered Muhammad's mother, who stood up and shouted, "That is not a monster. He is my son." She bolted from the courtroom but could be heard shouting in the corridor outside as Kemp resumed her closing argument.
Defense attorney Paul Johnson told jurors that the children's deaths were, indeed, a horrible crime – one deserving of life imprisonment without parole. He told jurors that Muhammad's neglect by a mother who was a crack-addicted prostitute and upbringing amid violence and sexual abuse warped him. That, Johnson said, was sufficient mitigation to spare him the death penalty.
"If it's not this case, what is it?" he said. "He is not evil, but he has committed an evil act."