- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Fairfax County Commonwealth’s Attorney Robert F. Horan Jr. yesterday said he will not seek re-election after 40 years on the job, leaving behind a track record of high-profile cases that included some death penalty sentences.

“I’ve spent 30 days just mulling it over,” Mr. Horan said. “One day it would be, ‘yeah.’ The next day would be, ‘no.’ It was a hard decision to make.”

The 74-year-old prosecutor said he has become increasingly concerned that a gradual hearing loss has made him less effective in the courtroom and that he could not commit to serving a full four-year term.

“I thought I would outlast Joe Paterno,” he said jokingly, referring to Pennsylvania State University’s head football coach of 41 years. “But I realized I could not.”

Mr. Horan’s decision left the county’s top prosecutor post up for grabs with less than four days until the Friday filing deadline for the November election.

A likely successor is Mr. Horan’s longtime deputy, Raymond F. Morrogh, who said he will reluctantly seek to replace his mentor.

“I thoroughly enjoyed working for Mr. Horan,” Mr. Morrogh said. “Frankly, I would work for him the rest of my career, if I could.”

Fairfax County Board of Supervisors Chairman Gerald E. Connolly said he would “enthusiastically” support Mr. Morrogh’s election campaign and praised Mr. Horan for guiding two generations of prosecutors.

“I think Bob has done his duty,” Mr. Connolly, a Democrat, said. “He has been there 40 years, and he has set the standard for commonwealth attorneys in Virginia and across the United States.”

Mr. Horan’s career as a prosecutor started in 1967, six years after he graduated from Georgetown Law School. From 1954 to 1959, he served in the Marine Corps.

Virginia’s longest-serving prosecutor, Mr. Horan tried hundreds of cases, including that of D.C. area sniper Lee Boyd Malvo.

In 2003, he convicted Malvo of killing FBI analyst Linda Franklin at the Home Depot store in Falls Church, but he did not get the jury to impose the death penalty. Malvo is serving a life sentence.

“The morning when we began the trial of Malvo, we met in the lobby of this hotel and he said, ‘Raymond, we are about to have an adventure,’” Mr. Morrogh recalled. “Truer words were never spoken.”

In the late 1970s, Mr. Horan won a guilty verdict in the case of James L. Breeden, who fatally shot four persons execution style in a walk-in refrigerator at a Roy Rogers restaurant in the Arlandria section of the county. Breeden was sentenced to five life terms.

Mr. Horan also garnered his reputation, in part, with the 1997 death penalty conviction of Mir Aimal Kasi. The Muslim fundamentalist opened fire in 1993 with an AK-47 assault rifle outside CIA headquarters in McLean, killing two workers and wounding three others.

Mr. Horan’s pursuit of the death penalty has prompted some people to call him merciless.

“The ones I tried and asked for , I had no doubt it was a penalty that should be considered. And a number of juries agreed with me,” he said.

The toughest thing about retiring, Mr. Horan said, was finding something to replace the excitement of testing his skills inside the courtroom.

“There is nothing quite as challenging to me as going into a courtroom with a very good lawyer,” he said. “It’s a challenging way to live, and an adversarial process.”

“We stack the deck somewhat in favor of the defendant, and we do that deliberately,” he said. “As a prosecutor, you have to put the whole cloth together; whereas on the defense side, they just need to find one thread to make their case. It’s a challenge.”

After he closes his remaining cases, including a double-murder death penalty trial set for May, Mr. Horan said he is not sure what his next move will be.

“I have spent so much time making the decision of what I was going to do that I truly haven’t given a lot of thought to what I am going to do after ,” he said. “I am going to have to sit down and think that over.”

Then he quipped, “I’m really certain that playing golf every day is not going to do it.”

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