- The Washington Times - Saturday, January 11, 2003

A Fairfax County judge ruled yesterday that a preliminary hearing scheduled next week for teen sniper suspect John Lee Malvo will remain open to the public and the media.
Mr. Malvo's court-appointed guardian, Todd Petit, had filed a motion Thursday to close the hearing. Mr. Petit said evidence revealed at the hearing would create a "substantial probability" the jury pool would be prejudiced against his 17-year-old ward.
But Fairfax County Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court Judge Charles Maxfield called Mr. Petit's arguments "pure speculation."
Judge Maxfield told Mr. Petit, "You can't point to anything in this case that's going to prejudice your ward's right to a fair trial."
Fairfax County Commonwealth's Attorney Robert F. Horan Jr. cited U.S. Supreme Court and Virginia state Supreme Court precedents that called for an "overriding interest" before closing a courtroom to the public.
"The law in this instance is quite clear," Mr. Horan said.
Mr. Petit argued that the possibility of further tainting the jury pool met the high standard, but Judge Maxfield disagreed.
"It's pretty speculative that putting more information out there, maybe clarifying some information that's already out there, is going to make it difficult for the commonwealth to find a jury," he said.
Mr. Petit said he was "very disappointed" in the ruling.
"If this case doesn't require closure, then there will never be a case that requires closure," Mr. Petit said. "And the Supreme Court didn't say that."
Mr. Malvo did not appear at the hourlong hearing. Mr. Petit said it was at the request of court employees.
The preliminary hearing Tuesday will provide the first public look into the government's evidence in the sniper case that traumatized the Washington area for three weeks in October..
Mr. Malvo and his companion, John Allen Muhammad, 42, are suspected of killing 10 persons and wounding three in Maryland, Virginia and the District.
The two are also suspects in killings in Alabama, Georgia and Louisiana.
Mr. Horan said he plans to call about 20 witnesses during the preliminary hearing.
Prosecutors will have to demonstrate probable cause and present enough evidence against Mr. Malvo to persuade a judge to send the case to a grand jury so the teenager can be prosecuted as an adult.
Mr. Malvo is being held in the shooting death of FBI analyst Linda Franklin outside the Home Depot store in Falls Church on Oct. 14.
Mr. Muhammad is facing capital murder charges in Prince William County in the killing of Dean Harold Meyers at a Manassas gas station Oct. 9. His trial is scheduled for October.
Mr. Malvo's attorneys also said yesterday that prosecutors gave them transcripts of statements their client made Nov. 6 during what the defense team described as a "seven-hour interrogation" after Mr. Malvo was transferred from federal custody to Fairfax County.
Thomas Walsh, a member of Mr. Malvo's defense team, said he was "still digesting" the information contained in the transcripts and would not comment on what they contained.
In their only legal victory thus far, Mr. Malvo's attorneys filed a motion two weeks ago to obtain the transcripts when Mr. Horan declined to turn them over.
Mr. Horan said he would have handed over the statements before the trial but that because he did not plan to use them during the preliminary hearing he was not obligated to hand them over.

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