- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 7, 2003

Prosecutors against sniper suspect John Allen Muhammad said yesterday they will not summon fellow suspect Lee Boyd Malvo as a witness against his former mentor, after the young man refused to answer questions in court last week.

Prince William Circuit Court Judge LeRoy F. Millette scheduled yesterday’s hearing to resolve the issue of whether Mr. Malvo could invoke his Fifth Amendment rights in responding to all questions from the prosecution. The issue became moot after Prince William Commonwealth’s Attorney Paul B. Ebert said he had withdrawn his request for Mr. Malvo to appear at Mr. Muhammad’s trial, which begins next week.

At the Oct. 1 pretrial hearing, when Mr. Malvo came face-to-face with Mr. Muhammad, 42 for the first time in a year, the 18-year-old would not answer Mr. Ebert’s question about his relationship with the older man or whether he would testify at the trial about the shootings.

Mr. Malvo’s attorneys claim Mr. Muhammad brainwashed their client so severely it has taken nearly a year of separation to break free of the older man’s influence.

After Mr. Ebert told the court he was withdrawing his motion, Mr. Muhammad’s lawyers spent the rest of the hearing denouncing investigators in the case for providing information for a recently released book about the sniper case.

Defense attorney Jonathan Shapiro accused law-enforcement officials of giving two Washington Post reporters vital information the defense didn’t even have, in an attempt to convict his client in the court of public opinion.

“Some people have in mind that this man is guilty and why are we wasting time? Let’s just go ahead and kill him,” Mr. Shapiro said. “It’s intolerable. It’s a slap in the face of the court system and it shouldn’t be tolerated. We’re talking about a man’s life here.”

The 237-page book released Sept. 30 includes many previously unknown details about the sniper shootings that killed 10 persons and wounded three in the Washington area one year ago.

“I couldn’t put it down, out of professional interest,” Mr. Shapiro told Judge Millette. “It’s chock-full of information, … information the defense did not have, that we argued we should have had,” he said.

Mr. Shapiro claims law-enforcement sources who spoke directly with the reporters had violated Judge Millette’s gag order. But Judge Millette noted that he did not issue the gag order until Aug. 5, saying it’s impossible to tell when sources provided information.

“They knew they should not be doing this, and they did it anyway,” Mr. Shapiro countered.

A source inside the sniper investigation said reporters for The Post gained access to the police officials in Montgomery County through a retired police official, who took them into police headquarters and personally introduced them to investigators involved in the sniper case.

“Let the word go out that the court is not to be trifled with,” Mr. Shapiro said, in pleading with Judge Millette to either dismiss the case, eliminate the possibility of a death penalty, or postpone the trial’s start date.

Judge Millette denied all three defense requests.

Mr. Shapiro pinpointed records of long-distance phone calls Mr. Muhammad made during the time of the shootings that are included in the book. The defense had not seen them until Monday when prosecutors handed them over.

Mr. Shapiro asked that the prosecution not be allowed to use the phone records in evidence. Judge Millette also denied that request.

The judge said under Virginia’s limited discovery laws, defense attorneys received more information about the crimes than they might have in a normal trial.

Mr. Muhammad’s trial begins Tuesday in Virginia Beach. It was moved there from Prince William because Judge Millette deemed Northern Virginia residents were too personally affected by the shootings to serve as jurors.

The elder suspect is charged with the Oct. 9 slaying in Manassas of Dean H. Meyers, 53, of Gaithersburg. Mr. Malvo’s trial begins Nov. 10 in Chesapeake, Va. He is charged with the Oct. 14 shooting death of Linda Franklin, 47, in Falls Church.

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