- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 16, 2003

A Fairfax County judge yesterday ruled there was sufficient evidence to charge sniper suspect John Lee Malvo as an adult, sending the case to Circuit Court and making the teen eligible for the death penalty.
"It is true that there is no eyewitness to place the defendant at any of these crime scenes," said Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court Judge Charles Maxfield. "However, the circumstantial evidence is quite strong."
Mr. Malvo's defense team had hoped the lack of an eyewitness would be enough to spare the teen from going to Circuit Court to face murder charges in connection with the Oct. 14 killing of FBI analyst Linda Franklin outside a Home Depot in Falls Church.
Prosecutors said they will take their case against Mr. Malvo to a grand jury Tuesday and hope to bring the case to trial this summer.
During the two-day preliminary hearing, prosecutors presented a parade of two dozen ballistics and forensics experts who tied the Bushmaster .223 rifle used in at least four shootings to Mr. Malvo.
Ballistics analysts said it was the same weapon seized Oct. 24 from the 1990 Chevrolet Caprice that Mr. Malvo was arrested in with his companion, John Allen Muhammad, while they were sleeping. A print from Mr. Malvo's left ring finger on an administrative sticker affixed to the rifle also tied the teen to the weapon.
Michael Arif, the teen's lead attorney, called the evidence "circumstantial."
"There is no evidence," Mr. Arif said. "It's just not there."
Mr. Arif argued that a demand for money reiterated in two phone calls to authorities and two notes left at crime scenes did not meet the standards of Virginia's new anti-terrorism statute that makes the death penalty an option if people attempt to extort the government or intimidate the civilian population at large.
He said telephone and handwritten demands for $10 million that prosecutors tied to Mr. Malvo were in their "broadest sense blackmail not intimidation."
In his closing statement, Fairfax County Commonwealth's Attorney Robert F. Horan Jr. argued forcefully for the charges.
"They said, 'If you want us to stop killing people, give us the money,'" Mr. Horan said, referring to the sniper suspects. "If that does not fit within the terrorism statute then there can never be a case that does."
Judge Maxfield cited the phone calls and notes, as well as fingerprint evidence. Witnesses called to testify during the two-day hearing said they had lifted Mr. Malvo's fingerprints, along with Mr. Muhammad's, from a Baltimore map recovered near the scene of the Oct. 9 fatal shooting of Dean Harold Meyers outside a Sunoco station in Prince William County.
They also said Mr. Malvo's fingerprints were found on a bag of Dole CinnaRaisins recovered near the scene of the Oct. 19 shooting outside a Ponderosa restaurant in Ashland, Va.
Prosecutors played a tape of a call made to the Ponderosa two days after the shooting that was routed to FBI Special Agent Jackie Dalrymple, who was monitoring the line.
They also brought in Fairfax County Police Detective June Boyle, who had taken part in a six-hour interrogation of Mr. Malvo. She verified that the voice she heard on the tape was Mr. Malvo's.
"I'd know that voice immediately," she said.
Montgomery County forensic expert David McGill said a note left near the site where bus driver Conrad Johnson was fatally shot Oct. 22 taunted police and tied Mr. Malvo to that shooting.
"Can you hear us now?" said the note, which was read aloud in court. "Do not play these childish games with us. You know our demands."
The defense team called no witnesses, but vigorously questioned the prosecution witnesses one for almost an hour.
The prosecution team repeatedly objected, saying the lengthy cross-examinations were irrelevant and an attempt to forgo the discovery process.
At one point, during a series of questions regarding a black duffel bag found near the scene where Mr. Johnson was shot, Mr. Horan's chief deputy, Raymond F. Morrogh, objected angrily.
"Unless he can prove the 'real killer' was hiding in that black bag, it's not relevant," he said.
Mr. Malvo and Mr. Muhammad, 42, are accused of killing 13 persons and wounding five others in Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, Maryland, Virginia and the District last year.
Mr. Muhammad faces capital murder charges in Prince William County for the killing of Mr. Meyers. His trial is scheduled to begin in October.
Despite yesterday's ruling, in which Judge Maxfield had to find probable cause that murders had been committed and that Mr. Malvo was involved, Mr. Arif said he did not think there was enough evidence for a jury to find his client guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

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