Contending that the Fairfax County, Va., prosecutors of teen-age sniper suspect Lee Boyd Malvo are receiving federal help, lawyers for Malvo indicated yesterday that they hope to obtain federal funds toward his capital murder defense.
In a highly unusual request filed yesterday, they asked Fairfax County Circuit Judge Jane Marum Roush to order the commonwealth's attorney's office to account for its expenditures, expected spending and sources of the money - similar to what the defense must file in representing a poor client.
However, Malvo's lawyers must ask the judge for permission to spend state dollars. She has approved some requests and restricted others, often noting the cost to Virginia taxpayers. It was unclear yesterday when the judge might rule on the request.
Defense lawyers Michael S. Arif and Craig S. Cooley argue in court papers that between the expected dollars and the work of federal law enforcement agencies, "in effect [Malvo] is being prosecuted by both the federal government and the Commonwealth of Virginia."
They wrote that "fundamental fairness" would allow the 18-year-old access to federal money for defense costs such as mental health experts, investigation expenses, and for transporting, housing and feeding defense witnesses.
Malvo's lawyers have complained before that because the sniper investigation and charges involve several states and federal agencies, they are overwhelmed by the resources available to prosecutors.
The lawyers did not say to which federal offices they would turn for money, and they could not be reached for comment yesterday.
At the defense's urging, Roush moved Malvo's trial, set to start Nov. 10, to Chesapeake, Va. The city is 200 miles south of the Washington area, where residents were gripped by fear during the October sniper shootings and who otherwise would have been potential jurors.
Fairfax County Commonwealth's Attorney Robert F. Horan Jr. said this month that he was "in denial" about the costs of the move. He could not be reached yesterday.
The capital murder trial of co-defendant John Allen Muhammad, 42, was moved from Prince William County to Virginia Beach, adjacent to Chesapeake. Prince William County prosecutors estimated they would need $1.5 million to accommodate the new trial location.
Muhammad's trial in the fatal shooting Oct. 9 of Dean Harold Meyers, 53, a Gaithersburg engineer, is to begin Oct. 14.
Prosecutors say Malvo and Muhammad were seeking to extort $10 million from the government. They are suspected in 20 shootings, 13 of them fatal, in Maryland, Virginia, Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana and the District of Columbia.