ROCKVILLE -- The cost of securing the Montgomery County courthouse for the expected trials of the Washington-area snipers could cost up to a half-million dollars, according to the county sheriff, an indication that trying the pair again might not be as inexpensive as some officials have said.
Lee Boyd Malvo and John Allen Muhammad are expected to be tried next year in Montgomery on six counts of first-degree murder for the October 2002 killings. Both have been convicted in separate trials in Virginia, legal cases that cost the state about $3 million.
Montgomery officials have not developed an overall prediction of what the new trials will cost. But Sheriff Raymond Kight, who is in charge of courthouse security, said he expects to spend $90,000 this fiscal year and another $400,000 next year preparing for the trials.
The $90,000 would be used to rewire the Circuit Court building in Rockville, a task made more complicated by thick concrete walls. The $400,000 would be used to buy closed-circuit television cameras, X-ray machines and magnetometers used to scan people as they enter the building, Kight said.
The sheriff said he planned to ask County Executive Douglas M. Duncan for supplemental funding after the fiscal year begins July 1. He also challenged statements by other county officials that the new trials would not be costly.
"I don't believe that," he said. "I know it is going to cost me."
Montgomery State's Attorney Douglas F. Gansler, who has insisted the trials can be held at minimal expense to taxpayers, said the sheriff's estimates might assume that the cases will mirror the Virginia trials.
In those cases, the trials were held separately and moved to locations hundreds of miles away from the counties that brought charges against the pair, leading to higher transportation costs, he said. Muhammad and Malvo are currently set to be tried together in Montgomery County, where their alleged crimes were committed.
Gansler said the cost of preparing for the trial would be no different from other high-profile cases his office has prosecuted. His staff has worked on the case since Malvo and Muhammad were arrested in 2002. Gansler said his office is the "most frugal, streamlined prosecutor office imaginable."