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Sniper's lawyers lose bid to prevent 2nd capital trial

Double jeopardy does not apply, Virginia judge rules

By Andrea F. Siegel

Sun Staff

August 31, 2004

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FAIRFAX, Va. -- Lawyers for John Allen Muhammad failed yesterday to prevent a second capital murder trial in Virginia for the convicted sniper, after a judge ruled that another prosecution for his alleged role in the sniper shootings does not constitute double jeopardy or violate state law.

However, Fairfax County Circuit Judge Jonathan C. Thacher delayed ruling on a defense claim that Muhammad's right to a speedy trial was violated. Although he was arrested in October 2002 and indicted the next month, his lawyers say, prosecutors waited until May to hand him the documents charging him with killing 47-year-old FBI analyst Linda Franklin.

Muhammad, 43, is charged with two counts of capital murder in the shooting of Franklin on Oct. 14, 2002, in the parking lot of a Home Depot store in Falls Church, Va. -- one under a law that makes it a capital crime to kill more than one person within three years, and another under Virginia's untested anti-terrorism law.

The trial is scheduled to begin Oct. 4, nearly two years after Franklin's death, and last for about six weeks.

A pretrial hearing was scheduled to resume this morning on matters including a request by the defense to move the trial from Northern Virginia. Muhammad's first trial was moved to Norfolk to find an unbiased jury -- the jury that last year convicted him and sentenced him to death for the fatal shooting Oct. 9, 2002, of Dean Meyers, 53, at a gas station outside Manassas, in Prince William County.

His accomplice, teenager Lee Boyd Malvo, was convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment for Franklin's death, in a trial that was moved to Chesapeake, Va. The killings were among 20 around the country, mostly in the Washington area, that authorities blame on Muhammad and Malvo.

Over prosecution objections, Thacher ruled that the defense can hire private investigators to work up to 200 hours at about $75 an hour. He also said lawyers Jonathan Shapiro and Peter D. Greenspun can hire a specialist to help prepare the defense's expected plea to jurors to spare Muhammad's life if they convict him of killing Franklin.

Fairfax County Commonwealth's Attorney Robert F. Horan Jr. and his deputy, Raymond Morrogh, repeatedly objected to efforts by the defense to see more evidence before the trial, including a litany of other crimes, that the prosecutors are expected to use during the trial -- noting that Greenspun and Shapiro heard it all when they defended Muhammad in his first trial.

Information about Franklin's death and other shootings was used by Prince William County prosecutors to win two death sentences for Muhammad in Meyers' death.