Lawyers for Malvo decry interrogation

Sniper suspect's team asks judge to throw out statement to Va. police

April 12, 2003|By Andrea F. Siegel | Andrea F. Siegel,SUN STAFF

Lawyers for teen-age sniper suspect Lee Boyd Malvo challenged yesterday events that culminated in the youth's six-hour police interrogation last November, in which Malvo allegedly boasted about fatally shooting several people in the Washington area.

In a 38-page document filed yesterday asking a Fairfax County, Va., Circuit Court judge to throw out Malvo's statement, the defense details a chronology contending that officials whisked Malvo out of Baltimore on Nov. 7, dropped federal charges against him in federal court in Greenbelt, and brought him to Fairfax County. There, they had filed a juvenile petition against him, and knowingly kept Malvo from his attorneys, the defense argues.

Lawyers Michael S. Arif and Craig S. Cooley claim that the long questioning in the Fairfax County police headquarters was illegal for several reasons, including that Malvo's lawyers were denied access to him in at least two Virginia locations that day despite an earlier order by U.S. Magistrate Judge James K. Bredar telling lawyers representing Malvo in federal court to continue representing him in state proceedings.

The defense for the younger of the two sniper suspects says that his rights to have a lawyer and to not incriminate himself were violated and that, at age 17, he didn't know why he was in Virginia when questioning began. Among the defense's contentions is that he was improperly questioned by a Fairfax detective and FBI agent after he asked for his lawyers.

Malvo and fellow suspect John Allen Muhammad face the possibility of execution if convicted.

Whether Fairfax County, Va., prosecutors can use Malvo's allegedly inculpatory statements at his trial this fall will be the subject of hearings scheduled for April 28 and 29. Fairfax County Commonwealth's Attorney Robert F. Horan Jr. has long maintained that the questioning was legal.

Malvo, now 18, and Muhammad, 42, were arrested Oct. 24 near Frederick and charged in the Washington-area sniper shootings that terrified the region for three weeks. In all, the two are charged with shooting 19 people, killing 13 of them, in Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, Maryland, Virginia and Washington, D.C., last fall.

Malvo faces capital murder charges in the death of FBI analyst Linda Franklin, 47, who was shot Oct. 14 outside a Home Depot store in the Seven Corners section of Fairfax County.

Muhammad faces identical charges in Prince William County.

Yesterday, Muhammad's attorney told a judge that his client may have been exposed to nerve or chemical agents during his military service in the Persian Gulf war.

Jonathan Shapiro said after the court hearing that the defense has specific information that indicates possible exposure, but he declined to elaborate. "It's not wild conjecture," Shapiro said.

Muhammad is charged with capital murder in the Oct. 9 shooting of Harold Dean Meyers, 53, of Gaithersburg, Md., outside a gas station in Manassas, Va. He has an October trial date.

Shapiro mentioned the chemical exposure during a brief hearing in which he successfully argued for the appointment of a mitigation expert, who will look for evidence that might aid Muhammad if he is convicted.

Also yesterday, the Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals ruled that a hearing must be held to determine whether mail waiting for the two suspects in Montgomery, Ala., should be forwarded to them or opened for inspection.

Wire reports contributed to this article.

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