- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 28, 2003

John Allen Muhammad’s defense attorneys were so uncommonly reluctant to risk cross-examination yesterday they dared not pose a single question to 14 of the first 17 prosecution witnesses.

That contrasted sharply with defense attorneys Jonathan Shapiro and Peter D. Greenspun’s strategy Monday, when they tried to dilute damaging testimony that prosecutors say proves Mr. Muhammad was pulling the trigger while his young accomplice, Lee Boyd Malvo, reaped loot in shootings in Alabama, Louisiana and Prince George’s County.

The defense’s refusal to question yesterday’s parade of eyewitnesses to five deaths in 16 hours in Montgomery County and the District on Oct. 3, 2002, was simply an attempt to minimize the horror related from the Virginia Beach witness stand. Any challenging questions to those witnesses would have resulted in yet another retelling. That would prolong the defense’s agony by sparking a new round of the gory photos and details that Mr. Greenspun sought to block from view.

So defense attorneys reserved their questions for police officers, technicians and others whose roles were remote from the carnage.

Mr. Greenspun pleaded in vain outside the jury’s presence yesterday to minimize use of the pictures and the tape-recorded 911 calls from frightened witnesses. He claimed that witnesses weren’t reporting flight or descriptions so their hysterical calls had no value as evidence.

Prince William County Commonwealth’s Attorney Paul Ebert said the defense was trying “to sanitize the crimes,” and Circuit Judge LeRoy F. Millette agreed in a ruling that termed the tapes “very relevant.”

Mr. Greenspun seemed to imply in the cross-examinations he attempted on Monday that witnesses hadn’t been close enough or didn’t look long enough or didn’t have the right angle to see what they testified they saw. In remaining seated yesterday, he also may have recalled how one of his few efforts at cross-examination backfired Monday.

In that instance, he pressed Ingrid Shaw of Baton Rouge, La., about her story of hearing a shot, seeing the snipers’ blue Chevrolet Caprice parked nearby and seeing a man she identified as Mr. Malvo run across a field and get into that car.

But Mr. Ebert seized on Mr. Greenspun’s skepticism by asking Miss Shaw during redirect testimony how she had such a good view. She said she used a pair of binoculars that provided a much better look.

As the prosecution moved on from presenting evidence of killings in the South, most of the 17 witnesses in yesterday’s morning session focused entirely on events of Oct. 3, 2002.

By the end of the day, 24 witnesses had testified. Only seven had to submit to cross-examination and those questions dealt with peripheral issues far removed from questions of innocence or guilt.

Metropolitan Police Officer Henry Gallagher, who had stopped and released Mr. Muhammad and Mr. Malvo that day, conceded under questioning that he hadn’t given serious thought to them as suspects and didn’t know of the connection until his lieutenant told him after their arrest.

Other questions raised by Mr. Greenspun focused on whether the attention of one witness truly was focused on the action, the exact time and angle from which Fairfax County crime scene investigator Jeffrey Miller took photographs, and whether Leisure World office worker Kerry Turner’s side view of the suspects’ blue Caprice really was valid to identify a photo of the car’s front end.

Yesterday’s defense aloofness contrasted sharply with the preceding day, when seven of Monday’s 12 witnesses were cross-examined by attorneys who are acutely aware that repeated identification of Mr. Malvo at crime scenes meant someone else — other than their client, Mr. Muhammad — was the person firing from the car.

Miss Shaw told how she watched Mr. Malvo run from the Baton Rouge, La., murder scene, carrying a handgun and the black purse taken after Hong Im Ballenger was picked off from the distant car with the Bushmaster rifle that was retrieved when the suspects were arrested a year ago at an interstate rest area.

Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney James A. Willett told the jurors in his opening statement Oct. 20 that the very fact no one saw Mr. Muhammad use a gun should be taken as proof of guilt, particularly since his accomplice was in plain view at the time.

“There will be no eyewitness testimony to any of these shootings, ladies and gentlemen. That’s how clever he is,” the prosecutor said.

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