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Archive for Tuesday, April 1, 2003

Sniper case judge rules on expert witnesses

April 1, 2003

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— Lawyers for sniper suspect Lee Boyd Malvo were denied permission to hire handwriting and voice recognition experts Monday, but they were allowed to hire experts in DNA evidence, ballistics and fingerprints.

Fairfax Circuit Court Judge Jane Marum Roush agreed with prosecutors that the defense did not need the voice-recognition and handwriting experts. The prosecution did not object to the other requests.

Prosecutors have their own handwriting expert, but Fairfax County Commonwealth's Atty. Robert F. Horan Jr. said he would not link Malvo to two handwritten notes that are part of the evidence in the case. The expert would testify only that the notes were written by the same person, Horan said.

Prosecutors will rely on a Fairfax detective who interviewed Malvo to match his voice to two telephone calls allegedly made by the snipers, Horan said. Defense attorneys had sought an expert to testify that such an identification is impossible.

Roush also denied defense attorneys' request for a specialist to help them sort through evidence that might help Malvo during a sentencing.

Malvo, 18, and John Allen Muhammad, 42, have been linked to 20 shootings, including 13 deaths, in Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, Maryland, Virginia and Washington, D.C. Both face the death penalty.

Malvo, who was 17 when the killings took place, is scheduled to be tried this fall in the Oct. 14 shooting of FBI analyst Linda Franklin outside a Home Depot store. Horan said during Monday's hearing that Malvo initially targeted Franklin's husband, William, but changed targets when he moved out of range.

Roush also ruled against the defense in allowing victims' relatives to testify during sentencing if Malvo is convicted. She said state law and court precedent allow such testimony.

Defense lawyers had argued that relatives' testimony would be irrelevant under Virginia's death penalty law, which instructs a jury to consider limited factors in determining whether a defendant should be sentenced to death.

Malvo faces trial Nov. 10. Muhammad goes on trial in October in neighboring Prince William County.

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