- The Washington Times - Friday, August 19, 2005

SUSSEX, Va. — A judge yesterday ordered sniper mastermind John Allen Muhammad to be moved from Virginia’s death row to Maryland for his second trial in the 2002 shooting spree in the Washington area.

Maryland had sought to extradite Muhammad, 44, in the slayings of six persons in Montgomery County, but he had challenged the move. He is on death row for his conviction in one of the 10 sniper killings.

Sussex County Circuit Judge W. Allan Sharrett did not provide a date for the extradition, but Montgomery County Sheriff Ray Kight said his office is prepared to move Muhammad to Maryland as soon as possible.

“If they say he is to be released to Maryland, the minute that happens, we’re on our way,” Sheriff Kight said yesterday.

Lee Boyd Malvo, 20, who was transferred to Maryland in May, already is serving a life sentence in Virginia for one of the killings.

Maryland has agreed to transfer the men back to Virginia after their trials. If convicted in Maryland, Muhammad could get the death penalty while Malvo, who was 17 at the time of the shootings, faces six consecutive life sentences.

During yesterday’s hearing, Muhammad’s attorney, Peter Greenspun, argued that an agreement between Virginia Gov. Mark Warner and Maryland Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. to extradite his client trampled on his right to be extradited in Louisiana or Alabama to face other charges.

Louisiana still plans to try Malvo and Muhammad in the slaying of Hong Im Ballenger, who was gunned down in Baton Rouge in the weeks before the string of shootings in the Washington area.

Alabama also intends to prosecute them in the killing of a liquor store manager in 2002.

Mr. Greenspun also argued that extraditing Muhammad to Maryland would make it difficult for him to access evidence in the Virginia conviction, which he is appealing to the state Supreme Court.

The judge dismissed Mr. Greenspun’s arguments.

“The whole issue of the defendant’s access to evidence … that’s an issue for the Maryland courts to address,” Judge Sharrett said.

Muhammad appeared to be in good spirits after the judge’s ruling, grinning and laughing with his attorney.

His hands and feet were shackled as he shuffled into the courtroom in a short-sleeved, bright orange prison jumpsuit. His hair was bushy, and he sported a mustache and beard.

Security was tight at the rural courthouse, with armed guards blanketing the complex. Seven armed guards lined the perimeter of the courtroom.

Muhammad and Malvo are charged in the 2002 Maryland slayings of James Martin, 55, on Oct. 2 in Wheaton; James L. “Sonny” Buchanan, 39, on Oct. 3 in Rockville; Premkumar A. Walekar, 54, on Oct. 3 in Aspen Hill; Sarah Ramos, 34, on Oct. 3 in Silver Spring; Lori Lewis-Rivera, 25, on Oct. 3 in Kensington; and Conrad Johnson, 35, on Oct. 22 in Silver Spring.

Muhammad was convicted in 2003 of killing Dean Harold Meyers in Manassas and was sentenced to death. He is being held at a state prison in Sussex County.

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