Malvo loses death-penalty challenge

Sniper shootings coverage
FAIRFAX, Va. - A request by lawyers for teen-age sniper suspect Lee Boyd Malvo to have Virginia's death penalty law declared unconstitutional was denied yesterday by a Fairfax County Circuit judge, clearing a way for the possibility of execution if he is convicted of capital murder.

The ruling by Judge Jane M. Roush was expected by the defense, which is building a record for appeals, and prosecutors.

"The Supreme Court of Virginia has rejected exactly the arguments that were just made," Commonwealth's Attorney Robert F. Horan Jr. said, noting that the state's 1977 death penalty law has not been overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court.

The challenge was one of 13 defense motions, most of which were addressed yesterday. Roush approved the hiring of a psychologist and three investigators for the defense - but not the five sought by Malvo lawyer Michael S. Arif. They will be paid by the state. She agreed to limit the uniformed officers in the courtroom to avoid leading jurors to think that Malvo is unduly threatening.

The defense failed in a move to have potential jurors - about 200 will be called - interviewed separately on their feelings about the case and the death penalty. Roush said they may be queried in panels of three.

Malvo is charged in the fatal shooting of FBI analyst Linda Franklin, 47, on Oct. 14 outside a Home Depot store in the Seven Corners area of the county. He and John Allen Muhammad, 42, are accused of killing 13 people in Maryland, Virginia and three other states, and the District of Columbia, and wounding others.

Potentially the most explosive motion is expected this spring, when the defense will ask Roush to toss out Malvo's confession to Fairfax County police. The defense contends the remarks, in which prosecutors say Malvo was "rather boastful" of killing Franklin, were illegally obtained.

Roush also rejected requests from the news media, including The Sun, for cameras in her courtroom for the trial, which is set to begin Nov. 10, saying she feared prejudicing Malvo's later trials. She acceded to a county request for a closed-circuit feed to a government building next door so an expected overflow crowd can see the trial.

A Prince William County judge is allowing still cameras for Muhammad's proceedings but rejected electronic media. His capital murder trial on charges of killing Dean H. Meyers, 53, of Gaithersburg, Md., on Oct. 9 at a Sunoco station is scheduled to start Oct. 14.

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