Nation & World

Malvo's lawyer has been down similar path

The lawyer representing 17-year-old sniper suspect John Lee Malvo once kept a young accomplice from death row.

In that case, Joshua Treem represented a 22-year-old man said to have fallen under the influence of an older killer, a situation similar to the Washington-area sniper case.

"Part of the argument about why his life should be spared was that he was under the influence of the older co-defendant," said Barry Boss, who worked with Treem on the case.

In that 2000 federal case, Dustin John Higgs, 28, was sentenced to death for the 1996 killings of three women. Higgs' accomplice, Willis Mark Haynes, also faced the death penalty for murder and kidnapping convictions, but received life in prison after jurors deadlocked on the death sentence.

In the sniper case, people who know Malvo said co-defendant John Allen Muhammad gave firm direction to the teen, treating him as a son and insisting on a strict diet for the youth. Treem declined to comment on the sniper case today.

Boss said hard work paid off in the Haynes case.

"There's no substitute for extremely hard work and effort, and that's what he applied in that case and what I would be absolutely certain he's going to apply on Mr. Malvo's behalf," Boss said.

Malvo's alleged partner, John Allen Muhammad, 41, faces federal firearms, extortion and interstate commerce charges, as well as murder charges in Maryland and Virginia. In all three jurisdictions, the charges carry a possible death sentence for Muhammad.

Malvo, who also faces murder charges in Maryland and Virginia, is not eligible for the death penalty in Maryland because he is under 18, but he could be executed in Virginia. Prosecutors have not revealed what federal charges Malvo faces, but he is not eligible for the death penalty under federal law.

Ten people were killed in the sniper attacks, and three were critically wounded.

Muhammad and Malvo also are charged with a September slaying in Alabama, where they could face the death penalty, and are suspects in a Washington state killing earlier this year.

Treem, 54, was chosen from a pool of attorneys who have done criminal defense work under contract to the federal court in Baltimore.

Last year, the Duke Law School graduate received the Criminal Justice Act John Adams Award. The award, given by Maryland's federal court system, honors attorneys for their work with indigent defendants in unpopular cases. The award is named after Adams because of his representation of British soldiers accused of murder in the Boston Massacre.

Treem has also represented white-collar crime defendants, including lobbyist Bruce Bereano, Maryland's premier lobbyist until his 1994 conviction for mail fraud.

In 1995, Treem made a list of "Maryland's Top Criminal Lawyers" published in Baltimore Magazine.

Larry Nathans, president of the Maryland Criminal Defense Attorney's Association, said Treem was a good choice to represent Malvo.

"He's experienced," Nathans said. "He's calm, and he's crafty."

Treem, a marathon runner who earned his bachelor's degree at Johns Hopkins University, worked as an attorney for the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division from 1972-1973.

He later worked as an assistant U.S. Attorney in Maryland until 1978.