- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 3, 2004

The trials of snipers John Allen Muhammad and Lee Boyd Malvo cost Virginia taxpayers more than $2.2 million, as local prosecutors have indicated they would likely swap the cases and retry both men in Northern Virginia.

Of the four jurisdictions that had a part in the prosecution, Fairfax County so far has reported the lowest expenditure — $243,843. However, county officials did not include police expenditures between Oct. 24, 2002, when the snipers were arrested and Oct. 14, 2003, when Malvo’s trial began.

“They would have been working anyway,” Fairfax County police spokeswoman Marianne Jennings said.

Officials in Prince William County said they spent an estimated $500,000. Officials in Virginia Beach said their costs so far are estimated at $558,000. They said they also spent another $500,000 that was already in their budget. Officials in Chesapeake said they spent $407,675.

Virginia State Police, who supplied officers, bomb technicians and bomb-dog handlers during both trials, did not return telephone calls seeking comment on how much they spent on manpower.

Still, authorities said they have not compiled all of their expenditures stemming from the investigations and the trials, which means the costs will climb beyond the $2.2 million mark.

Meanwhile, Fairfax County Commonwealth’s Attorney Robert F. Horan Jr., who prosecuted Malvo, and Prince William County Commonwealth’s Attorney Paul B. Ebert, who prosecuted Muhammad, are indicating that they will likely swap the cases. Swapping the cases would mean that Muhammad would be transferred from Prince William to Fairfax and Malvo would be moved from Fairfax to Prince William.

There is still a chance, they said, that either or both snipers could stand trial in Spotsylvania County in the Oct. 11, 2002, fatal shooting of Kenneth H. Bridges, 53, at a gas station in Massaponax. But, they said, trying the snipers in Spotsylvania would be “far more difficult” than trying them in Northern Virginia.

William F. Neely, Spotsylvania commonwealth’s attorney, agreed.

“It would be very difficult. We only have 1 circuit courts going,” Mr. Neely said. “A case like this would be a great strain on our courts and on our resources. But it’s also a significant death case and I’m not going to blow it off.”

Local prosecutors also said they would try to keep the trials in Northern Virginia. Both trials were moved to the Hampton Roads area last fall because the judges in both cases ruled that the population in Northern Virginia was too traumatized by the shootings to serve as fair and impartial jurors.

Mr. Horan said he would argue that enough time has passed since the shootings, and that he could find jurors who did not live in the area during October 2002, when the shootings occurred.

Muhammad was convicted of two counts of capital murder for the Oct. 9, 2002, fatal shooting of Dean H. Meyers, 53, at a Manassas gas station. A Virginia Beach jury recommended a death sentence.

Malvo was convicted of two counts of capital murder for the Oct. 14, 2002, fatal shooting of Linda Franklin, 47, outside a Home Depot in the Seven Corners area of Fairfax. A Chesapeake jury recommended a sentence of life in prison.

Both men will be formally sentenced on March 10.

It is not clear how much the second round of sniper trials would cost the state, partly because the accounting for the first trials is still incomplete. Also, costs to house Muhammad and Malvo in county facilities are ongoing, and some of the expenditures were not recorded because they were not part of the police department budgets.

If the second trials stay in Northern Virginia, they will cost less, Miss Jennings said, mainly because Fairfax will not have to cover hotel and meal bills for personnel staying out of town.

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