Snipers `unlikely' to leave Va. before more trials

State deciding whether to try Muhammad, Malvo

January 24, 2004|By Stephen Kiehl and Andrea F. Siegel | Stephen Kiehl and Andrea F. Siegel,SUN STAFF

Convicted snipers John Allen Muhammad and Lee Boyd Malvo will almost certainly face more trials in Virginia before they are extradited to Maryland or any other state, the Virginia governor's office said yesterday.

A final decision has not been made, but a spokeswoman for Virginia Gov. Mark Warner said it is "extremely unlikely" that Muhammad and Malvo will be sent out of state while Virginia prosecutors still have cases they want to try.

"I don't think the governor will take any action that will prevent that from happening," said the spokeswoman, Ellen Qualls. "I expect the governor will not speak on this issue as long as Virginia prosecutors have requests for these defendants pending."

Muhammad and Malvo were convicted of capital murder late last year for their roles in the sniper killings that left 10 dead and three injured in the Washington region. A jury in Virginia Beach, Va., recommended a death sentence for Muhammad, and a jury in Chesapeake, Va., sentenced Malvo, 18, to life in prison without parole.

The two were sent to Virginia for their first trials because of the state's record for carrying out executions. But when prosecutors failed to win a death sentence for Malvo, officials in Alabama and Louisiana quickly said they would seek the death penalty for the teen-ager, who is accused of killings in those states.

And although Montgomery County's chief prosecutor, Douglas F. Gansler, has expressed some interest in prosecuting the snipers, other officials in Maryland have not been pushing hard to bring them here.

Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. has not taken a position on the issue, and his press secretary declined to comment last night. The county executive in Montgomery County, where six of the 10 sniper killings occurred, has said he does not want to put victims' families through more trials than necessary.

"We have always said that we just want to see justice done," David Weaver, spokesman for Montgomery Executive Douglas M. Duncan, said yesterday.

Lawyers involved in the cases in Virginia have always said privately that they expected Muhammad and Malvo to stay in Virginia. The expectation was that the prosecutors from Fairfax and Prince William counties would swap cases.

Malvo can still be tried in Prince William County for the murder of Dean H. Meyers at a Manassas gas station Oct. 9, 2002. And Muhammad can still be tried in Fairfax County for the murder of Linda Franklin at a Falls Church Home Depot on Oct. 14, 2002. Both could also be tried for the murder of Kenneth H. Bridges in Spotsylvania County on Oct. 11, 2002.

After a jury did not give Malvo a death sentence last month, prosecutor Robert F. Horan Jr. said he thought Malvo should next stand trial in Prince William County, Va.

Prince William prosecutors could not be reached last night. But they have said they are evaluating whether they want to try Malvo. An assessment is likely to include whether they think they can get a jury to impose a death sentence.

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