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Opening Arguments In Sniper Case

Sniper suspect John Allen Muhammad, is escorted into courtroom 10 at the Virginia Beach Circuit Court for the second day of jury selection in Virginia Beach, Va., Wednesday Oct. 15, 2003. Muhammad faces two counts of capitol murder in the shooting death of Dean Harold Meyers in October 2002.
AP
Dean Harold Meyers stopped for gas at a Sunoco station seven miles south of Manassas. Just after he filled the tank, a shot rang out.

It was the night of Oct. 9, 2002, and Meyers' body lay crumpled on the ground.

He was 53, a Vietnam veteran and a project manager and design engineer from Gaithersburg, Md., who had worked for the same firm for 20 years.

That night, authorities said he became the seventh victim in a three-week shooting spree by a sniper who left 10 people dead in Virginia, Maryland and Washington, D.C.

Opening arguments are expected to begin Monday in the trial of the man accused of Meyer's murder, John Allen Muhammad. His alleged accomplice is scheduled to face trial later.

Prosecutors have not spelled out the order of their witnesses or the evidence, but the other sniper suspect, 18-year-old Lee Boyd Malvo, was expected to appear in court Monday.

He was flown to the jail in Virginia Beach on Sunday from northern Virginia and has orders to appear in court, said Paula Miller, a spokeswoman for the Virginia Beach Sheriff's Office.

"We don't know if he's here for another day or if he's here longer than that," Miller said.

Malvo refused to testify at a recent hearing and instead invoked his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination.

"Prosecutors say they are bringing Malvo into court in order to have him identified by witnesses who apparently will say that they saw him with Muhammad around the time of the shootings," observes CBS News Legal Analyst Andrew Cohen. "But prosecutors are no dummies. They know that jurors will take one look at Malvo and immediately compare him with the much-older Muhammad in order to determine for themselves whether it is possible that the baby-faced Malvo could really have been the grizzled Muhammad's ringleader."

Malvo is scheduled to go on trial separately next month in another of the killings. Both Malvo and Muhammad could face the death penalty.

The jury that will hear the case against Muhammad, 42, includes many people with ties to the military.

They include a former Navy captain, the wife of a former Navy sailor, a retired member of the Air Force, an electrical engineer who works on navy ships, and a retired Naval officer now working as a civilian for that branch of the military.

Cohen says it's unlikely that Muhammad's military experience - he saw duty in the Persian Gulf War - will make jurors more sympathetic to him.

"It's a lot more likely," Cohen suggests, that the jurors with military ties "will judge him more harshly than the rest. 'I'm ex-military and I didn't turn into a sniper,' they are likely to say, if convinced that Muhammad had anything at all to do with the shootings."

The trial was moved to Virginia Beach after defense lawyers argued that every northern Virginia resident could be considered a victim because of the fear the shootings inspired.

The panel of 12 jurors, plus three alternates, was chosen Friday after four days of questioning. It includes a retired Navy pilot, the spouse of a retired Navy mechanic, an Air Force retiree whose husband also was in the Air Force, and a former Navy officer whose husband retired from the Navy.

The trial is the first to come out of the crime spree prosecutors have said was part of a plot to extort $10 million from the government. Malvo's trial, in the Oct. 14, 2002, shooting death of FBI analyst Linda Franklin, begins Nov. 10 in Chesapeake, also in southeast Virginia.

Both suspects are being tried in Virginia first because of the state's strong death penalty laws. Virginia has executed 89 people - second only to Texas' 310 - since the U.S. Supreme Court permitted the reinstatement of capital punishment in 1976.