- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 22, 2003

VIRGINIA BEACH — An Alabama man told jurors yesterday that he had chased a “wild” Lee Boyd Malvo after he shot two women outside a liquor store, a dramatic moment on another day marked by new twists in the sniper trials — including defendant John Allen Muhammad’s decision to rehire his defense attorneys.

Mr. Muhammad, who was in pain all day from a toothache, turned his defense over to attorneys Peter D. Greenspun and Jonathan Shapiro after consulting with them and the judge in the courtroom as proceedings began.

“One of the reasons you said you wanted to represent yourself is because you wanted to speak for yourself,” Prince William Circuit Court Judge LeRoy F. Millette Jr. told Mr. Muhammad. “Now I think it’s time for the professionals.”

Meanwhile, in Northern Virginia, Fairfax County Commonwealth’s Attorney Robert F. Horan asked a judge to postpone the trial of Mr. Muhammad’s co-defendant in the sniper cases, the 18-year-old Mr. Malvo, until at least Dec. 10. Mr. Malvo’s attorneys have said they plan to use an insanity defense, and Mr. Horan said the prosecution needs 30 days to produce a report on Mr. Malvo’s mental state at the time of the shootings.

Mr. Muhammad, a 42-year-old Army veteran, and his young companion face capital murder charges in the Washington-area shootings last year that left 10 persons dead. Mr. Muhammad is on trial for the Oct. 9 fatal shooting of Dean Harold Meyers, 53, in Manassas. Mr. Malvo is charged with the Oct. 14 slaying of Linda Franklin, 47, in Falls Church.

Both the trials were moved because of pretrial publicity. Prosecutors say the elder man had brainwashed Mr. Malvo and had him under his control.

Mr. Muhammad, who has no knowledge of case law and no courtroom experience, on Monday had sought and been given the right to act as his own attorney, but after two days of cross-examining witnesses, he decided that he needed the two attorneys who had been put on “standby.”

Mr. Muhammad had offered only minor resistance to the prosecution’s case. But Mr. Greenspun and Mr. Shapiro thoroughly examined witnesses, raised objections and were able to prevent some witnesses from testifying.

However, there was still dramatic testimony from four witnesses. James Gray was the second person to identify Mr. Malvo in court yesterday. Muhammad Rashid, 32, who survived a gunshot wound on Sept. 15 in Brandywine sat with his head in his hands as a recording of his 911 call was played. He told jurors that Mr. Malvo looked “very similar” to the person who had shot and robbed him outside a liquor store.

Mr. Gray, a middle-aged man, chased a young man who he said was Mr. Malvo after two women were shot outside a Montgomery, Ala., liquor store on the night of Sept. 21. Mr. Gray said he came within 20 feet of Mr. Malvo while pursuing him, and later saw him crouched at the end of an open-ended alleyway, about 40 feet away.

Mr. Gray told him not to move. “What I saw most was his eyes. He was staring at me. His eyes were big and they were round, and he looked wild, like he was in some kind of frenzy. … When I saw his eyes, he scared me,” he said.

Mr. Malvo was brought into the courtroom toward the end of the day for Mr. Gray to identify. Mr. Gray asked deputies to turn the teenager around for a view of his profile.

Suddenly Mr. Gray choked up. “That’s him,” he said, burying his face in his hands and weeping. Mr. Malvo, wearing an orange prison jumpsuit, looked down and was led out by deputies.

Mr. Gray said he had identified Mr. Malvo in a photo lineup on Oct. 24, the day Mr. Muhammad and Mr. Malvo were arrested at a rest stop near Frederick, Md. Police called Mr. Gray around 9 a.m., told him to come to headquarters by 10 a.m., and gave him a “free pass” to drive as fast as he wanted en route.

“I had the most fun I’ve had in a long time,” Mr. Gray said, prompting laughter from the courtroom, but not Mr. Muhammad.

Prosecutors, who are seeking the death penalty for Mr. Muhammad, must convince the jury that he is responsible for more than one slaying. Or that he is guilty of violating Virginia’s new antiterrorism statute.

Prosecutors are presenting evidence in Mr. Muhammad’s trial for 15 other shootings. Each shooting is tied in some way to or is among the 13 that killed 10 and wounded three in the Washington area last fall. Mr. Greenspun questioned the relevance of three of the shootings.

The two suspects have been linked to 22 shootings in all, including in Washington state, Arizona, Georgia, Alabama and Louisiana.

Mr. Muhammad’s decision to reinstate his attorneys restored a semblance of normalcy to the proceedings.

Outside the courthouse, Mr. Shapiro told reporters that being relegated to standby status for two days was “absolutely painful.”

“You don’t know how emotional it is for a lawyer to be sidelined, with death on the table, in deference to a defendant’s right to defend himself. … There is at least the appearance that justice is not being served,” he said. “We’re greatly relieved that Mr. Muhammad decided to change course.”

Mr. Rashid, a small, Middle Eastern man with a mustache, looked terrified as he entered the courtroom and took the witness stand. He had been shot in the abdomen from close range after locking his store and after two shots from a high-powered rifle narrowly missed him. He said he thought it was Mr. Malvo who had fired.

He was doubled over in his seat as the tape of his 911 call played. On the tape, he was heard moaning loudly, crying and pleading for police to come.

Prosecutors appeared to be implying that Mr. Malvo and Mr. Muhammad were working in tandem at that point in early September, with Mr. Muhammad using a rifle and Mr. Malvo following up at close range with a handgun.

Mr. Gray said that when he heard the two shots fired at the liquor store, they were “almost simultaneous.”

Wearing a breathing device around her neck, shooting survivor Kellie Adams testified about the night outside the liquor store. She has had six surgeries to repair the damage to her neck, chin and throat.

Yesterday was the anniversary of the final sniper shooting. Driver Conrad Johnson, 35, was fatally shot on his Ride On bus at 5:55 a.m. in Aspen Hill. Members of his family were in the courtroom yesterday for the first time during the trial.

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