Judge signals he'll open Malvo's sealed record

Defense to seek hiring of expert witnesses in secret

February 06, 2003|By Gail Gibson | Gail Gibson,SUN STAFF

A federal judge in Baltimore indicated yesterday that he would make public much of the sealed juvenile record of sniper suspect Lee Boyd Malvo.

Meanwhile, the 17-year-old's Virginia lawyers are expected to ask a judge today for permission to hire, in secret, expert witnesses for his state murder trial.

In Baltimore, U.S. Magistrate Judge James K. Bredar signaled during a hearing yesterday that he was willing to grant a request by The Sun and three other news organizations to unseal juvenile records involving Malvo in the first weeks after his arrest.

Bredar said he saw no reason to conceal information that has since been made public in court proceedings against Malvo in Virginia, where he is being tried as an adult. But Bredar indicated he might withhold some information that has not been disclosed or has been made public only through anonymous leaks to the media. A decision on what information will be released could come next week.

After his Oct. 24 arrest, Malvo initially was held on a federal material witness warrant. Because he was a juvenile - Malvo's 18th birthday is later this month - his status in the federal court system was shrouded in secrecy.

All records in Malvo's federal case, in which he was identified only as "John Doe, Juvenile," were sealed, even after authorities determined that Malvo would stand trial first in Fairfax County, Va., for the slaying of an FBI analyst outside a suburban Home Depot store.

Malvo's attorneys seek to keep the records in U.S. District Court in Baltimore sealed. U.S. prosecutors have not objected to making the records public, saying there is little new information in the file.

At a hearing in Virginia this morning, Malvo's defense attorneys are expected to ask a judge for permission to hire experts in secret. Because Malvo is indigent, his legal expenses are paid by the state, and his lawyers must have a judge's permission to hire expert witnesses.

They are seeking to conduct that process in secret to avoid tipping off prosecutors to their trial strategy.

Malvo is scheduled to stand trial Nov. 10. His alleged accomplice, John Allen Muhammad, 42, is scheduled to stand trial Oct. 14 in Prince William County. The pair has been linked to 20 shootings, including 13 deaths in Maryland, Virginia, Georgia, Alabama, Louisiana and Washington, D.C.

Both men face the death penalty in Virginia if convicted.

Sun staff writer Andrea F. Siegel contributed to this article.

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