- The Washington Times - Monday, August 25, 2003

Sniper suspect John Allen Muhammad’s lawyers are asking for detailed information about eyewitnesses who have identified their client or linked him to the case through voice and handwriting analysis.

In a motion filed Friday and made public yesterday, defense attorneys Peter D. Greenspun and Jonathan Shapiro said prosecutors have told them about two witnesses who misidentified Mr. Muhammad in a photo lineup and another who could not match Mr. Muhammad to either a voice or handwriting sample connected to the case.

The defense wants to know if any witness has made a positive identification.

“The commonwealth has provided information related to two instances of misidentification from photo spreads or lineups. However, despite previous requests, the commonwealth has refused to provide any information related to purported identifications of John Allen Muhammad and [fellow sniper suspect] Lee Boyd Malvo,” the motion states.

“The commonwealth also possesses voice and handwriting samples, which are from questioned sources…. No information has been received from the commonwealth regarding voice or handwriting identifications, or the inability of witnesses to make identification, except in one instance.”

Virginia case law requires prosecutors to turn over information or evidence that could help the defense. Prosecutors told the defense attorneys to file a motion with the court if they wanted such information.

Mr. Muhammad, 42, and Mr. Malvo, 18, are accused of 13 shootings, including 10 homicides, during a three-week spree in October in the Washington area. Both men could face the death penalty if convicted.

This is not the first time Mr. Muhammad’s lawyers have asked the Prince William County court to get them key information about their client. Mr. Greenspun and Mr. Shapiro have said prosecutors turned over crucial pieces of evidence to Mr. Malvo’s lawyers.

Mr. Malvo is being tried in Fairfax County and prosecutors there have declined to give Mr. Malvo’s lawyers that evidence, which includes 23 pages of interviews with witnesses who knew the accused snipers. However, Prince William County prosecutors have complied.

Mr. Muhammad’s team now wants the interviews and says in the court papers that Prince William prosecutors gave them to Mr. Malvo’s team as long as it did not give them to Mr. Muhammad’s lawyers.

Mr. Muhammad is accused of the Oct. 9 shooting of Dean H. Meyers, 53, at a gas station in Prince William County. Mr. Malvo is accused of killing 47-year-old Linda Franklin on Oct. 14 outside a Home Depot store at Seven Corners in Falls Church .

Mr. Muhammad’s Oct. 14 trial has been moved from Prince William County to Virginia Beach. Mr. Malvo’s Nov. 10 trial has been moved from Fairfax County to Chesapeake.

Prosecutors in Prince William contend that Mr. Muhammad was the mastermind behind the shootings. Fairfax prosecutors portray Mr. Malvo as a killer who enjoyed shooting strangers.

Though both prosecution teams have said the two acted as a team, one portrays Mr. Malvo as brainwashed and the other portrays him as a ruthless killer.

The competing theories have created an alliance between Prince William prosecutors and Mr. Malvo’s team, and Fairfax prosecutors with Mr. Muhammad’s team.

Mr. Muhammad will be in court today, when his lawyers are expected to present a motion that the Virginia death penalty is unconstitutional. Prosecutors have rejected that argument, and have urged the judge in the case not to hear the motion.

This article is based in part on wire service reports.

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