Sniper shootings coverage
FAIRFAX, Va. - Defense lawyers for teen-age sniper suspect Lee Boyd Malvo argued yesterday that his capital murder trial should be moved out of this Washington suburb, maintaining that potential jurors in Fairfax County were tainted by news reports and by having to live under a siege of random shootings last fall.

Prosecutors objected, saying any decision would be premature until the effort to seat a jury started. The trial is scheduled to begin Nov. 10 in Fairfax City.

Fairfax County Circuit Judge Jane Marum Roush said she will decide in a month whether to move the trial.

Any move would probably send the trial, which is expected to last at least a month, out of the Interstate 95 corridor that extends to Richmond, Va. That area was the scene of several shootings, which traumatized the region for three weeks in October as people zigzagged through parking lots, police dragnets stopped traffic, schools closed and groups canceled events.

Craig S. Cooley, one of Malvo's lead defense lawyers, said he expects Roush, if she decides to shift the trial, to look for places south and west of the Virginia capital. There, residents are less likely to have been personally affected by the sniper siege or have followed the barrage of news accounts of Malvo's confession.

Any court chosen would have to be able to handle the trial, with concerns about its duration, security and evidence storage. And sufficient hotel rooms and restaurants would have to be available for participants.

In addition, scores of news media representatives are expected, so many that Fairfax County officials planned months ago for a closed-circuit television feed from the court to a large room outside it.

Malvo, 18, is charged with two counts of capital murder in the death of Linda Franklin, 47, an FBI analyst who was gunned down Oct. 14 outside a Home Depot. He and John Allen Muhammad, 42, have been linked by police to about 20 shootings, 13 of them fatal, in Maryland, Virginia, Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana and Washington, D.C.

Muhammad is scheduled for trial in October in Prince William County on capital murder charges in the shooting death Oct. 9 of Dean Harold Meyers, 53, of Gaithersburg.

Malvo, in a drab Fairfax County jail jumpsuit and with a fresh haircut, appeared attentive as Cooley sparred with Fairfax County Commonwealth's Attorney Robert F. Horan over whether people who were potential victims can be fair as jurors.

"It was a crime that intimidated for weeks," Cooley said of the impact on Washington-area residents. "It has to change their ability to be unbiased."

He argued that news coverage, especially an April 6 article on the front page of The Washington Post with leaked details of Malvo's confession, also has tainted the jury pool.

Horan called that speculation, arguing that Roush should try to seat a jury before declaring the task hopeless. He said Fairfax County quickly seated a jury for the 1997 trial of Mir Amal Kasi, who was convicted and executed for fatally shooting two CIA employees outside agency headquarters in Langley, Va.

The longtime prosecutor said he will not try to prove that Malvo intimidated the public. That would be one means of establishing terrorism under a new Virginia law. Rather, he will try to prove that the teen-ager sought to extort $10 million from the government.

"They wanted to intimidate the government by killing the public," Horan said.

The defense countered that the information about threatening the public would be a key part of the trial.

In Maryland, a person facing the possibility of execution need only ask and the trial is moved.

In other motions yesterday, Roush rejected a request to dismiss charges. The defense alleged that Malvo's federal charges overlapped the state charges in a violation of double-jeopardy protections.

Horan said he asked Maryland U.S. Attorney Thomas M. DiBiagio not to include Virginia charges in the federal indictment, which has since been dropped, to avoid that issue.