November Trial For DC Sniper Suspect

Sniper suspect John Lee Malvo is escorted from court after his preliminary hearing in Fairfax, Va., Tuesday, Jan. 14, 2003
Lee Boyd Malvo will be tried in November on murder charges that could bring the death penalty for his alleged role in the sniper attacks that terrorized the Washington area, a judge ruled Tuesday.

Fairfax County Circuit Judge Jane Roush set Nov. 10 for the start of the teenager's trial in the slaying of FBI analyst Linda Franklin outside a Home Depot store, reports CBS Radio Correspondent Barry Bagnato. Franklin was shot through the head Oct. 14 as she was loading items into the trunk of her car.

Defense lawyers had raised objections to the date.

"I am not going to be ready by Nov. 10. It's an impossible date. It's not a realistic date," defense lawyer Michael Arif told the judge. Arif had asked for the trial to start in February 2004.

The defense complained there was too much evidence to review and not enough time to interview potential witnesses overseas.

The judge said a Nov. 10 trial date allowed twice the time Virginia law would normally grant for a speedy trial. Prosecutors had asked for a trial in late June.

A grand jury indicted Malvo last week on capital murder charges. Prosecutor Robert F. Horan Jr. has not yet said whether he will ask for the death penalty.

Malvo, 17, and John Allen Muhammad, 42, are accused of killing 13 people and wounding six in Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, Maryland, Virginia and Washington, D.C. They are being tried first in Virginia because its laws allow the best opportunities for the death penalty.

The November date for Malvo sets up the possibility that he and Muhammad will be on trial at the same time. Muhammad's own trial for the slaying of a man at a gas station is to begin in mid-October in neighboring Prince William County.

Malvo's lawyers said his trial could last up to 12 weeks; the prosecution estimated three weeks.

Arif said simultaneous trials could cause administrative problems. "Evidence is going to be all over the place," he said.

Horan said prosecutors are sorting through 50,000 to 70,000 tips given to police during the October shooting spree. He said most of them are worthless but he expects to turn over any potentially exculpatory tips to the defense on March 1.

Roush appointed another lawyer with experience in capital murder cases to Malvo's defense team. Craig Cooley will work with Arif and Malvo's other attorneys.

Roush also said Malvo's court-appointed guardian, Todd Petit, ends his duties when Malvo turns 18 on Feb. 18. Petit said after the hearing that he plans to search case law for anything that would support his staying on beyond Malvo's birthday.

Malvo appeared in court with his hair closely cropped, instead of wearing it long as he has in past appearances.

Arif said Malvo, who told police he was a vegetarian, has started to eat meat dishes that the sheriff has provided. "He ate meat when he lived with his mother. This only started when he was hooked up with Mr. Muhammad," Arif said.

Malvo was indicted on capital murder charges under two Virginia statutes: One makes it a capital offense to commit serial killings; the other is a post-Sept. 11 law that makes it a capital offense to kill someone in order to terrorize the public. Malvo and Muhammad are the first defendants to be prosecuted under the new law.

Horan has said fingerprints from a rifle, notes to police and phone calls from Malvo link him to at least four of the sniper shootings.