Doctor will evaluate Muhammad's mental health

Sniper shootings coverage
MANASSAS, Va. - Lawyers for sniper suspect John Allen Muhammad received permission yesterday to hire a psychiatrist and a psychologist to evaluate his mental health. But the judge temporarily denied requests to hire private investigators.

The mental health experts were not identified during the 45-minute hearing before Prince William Circuit Judge LeRoy F. Millette Jr.

Millette said he wanted to know more details about what the investigators would be looking for before giving defense attorney Peter Greenspun the opportunity to hire them.

"I don't want you to give up your case, but I need some more information. I'm not going to give you a blank check," Millette said.

Greenspun had said that investigators at the least would have to travel to Louisiana and Washington state and may have to travel internationally.

Millette set another hearing for April 11, at which time prosecutors and defense attorneys are to have agreed on deadlines for turning over evidence in the case.

Muhammad, 42, and his alleged accomplice, Lee Boyd Malvo, 18, have been linked to 20 shootings last year, including 13 deaths, in Virginia, Maryland, Georgia, Alabama, Louisiana and the District of Columbia. Both could get the death penalty if convicted.

Prosecutors have said the shootings that happened during three weeks in October were part of a scheme to extort $10 million from the government.

Greenspun, Muhammad's court-appointed lawyer, had filed two motions last week, one asking for permission to hire a mental-health expert and another asking to hire investigators to look at Muhammad's life for any evidence that could help them at trial or during sentencing.

A judge has ruled that Malvo, who is being tried separately in neighboring Fairfax County, is entitled to a mental-health expert. She has also given Malvo's

defense team permission to hire three investigators; they had requested five.

The judges are involved in deciding how many defense experts can be hired because the defense lawyers are public defenders, and taxpayers are footing the bill.

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