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Sniper suspect's attorney calls for 'open mind' from the public

Greenspun: Leaks to media about Malvo interview is
Greenspun: Leaks to media about Malvo interview is "outrageous."

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The lawyers for the two suspects in the sniper shootings are asking the public to keep an 'open mind' to afford their clients a fair trial. CNN's Patty Davis reports (November 14)
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Indictment: Commonwealth of Virginia v. Muhammad  (FindLaw, PDF)external link

MANASSAS, Virginia (CNN) -- Sniper suspect John Allen Muhammad stood before a Prince William County judge Wednesday but came away from a 10-minute hearing without a date for a trial in the killing of Dean Harold Meyers at a Manassas gas station last month.

Circuit Court Judge LeRoy Millette Jr. ordered a status hearing for December 12, when a trial date is likely to be set.

Outside the courthouse after the hearing, Muhammad's court-appointed attorney, Peter Greenspun, appealed for the public to maintain "an open mind."

"It is crucial that these matters be tried in the courtroom and not on the steps of the courthouse," he said after the hearing.

The attorney said Muhammad "has completely cooperated with me" in their dealings, but would say nothing else about the man suspected in a string of shootings -- 12 of them fatal -- from Baton Rouge, Louisiana, to the Washington, D.C., area.

Greenspun again criticized leaked revelations over the weekend that Muhammad's alleged accomplice, John Lee Malvo, had told police investigators that he had been the triggerman in some of the shootings.

"The information put out over the weekend is outrageous," the attorney said. "Pretrial publicity rules preclude a prosecutor putting out that kind of information," he said. "And it's just as improper for a cowardly police source to put it out."

Fairfax County Commonwealth's Attorney Robert Horan will not publicly acknowledge that there was any interrogation of Malvo or any leak of information about it, but said that if there were such a leak, "It is reprehensible conduct by a police officer who ought to know better and ought to find a new line of work."

Muhammad and Malvo face charges in connection with the three-week October sniper spree that killed 10 people and wounded three others in Maryland, Virginia and Washington. They also have been charged or named as suspects in other shootings in several other states.

On Wednesday, Judge Millette also appointed a second attorney -- Jonathan Shapiro -- to represent Muhammad and rejected Greenspun's request to ban all cameras from the courtroom.

Muhammad appeared in court in Manassas, Virginia, last Friday.
Muhammad appeared in court in Manassas, Virginia, last Friday.

The judge has not allowed video cameras, but is allowing a still camera.

Greenspun said he had made no decision about whether he would seek a change of venue for the trial, nor whether he would ask the judge to issue a gag rule on the participants.

"As long as the evidence isn't discussed from this point forward, I don't see any reason for a gag rule," he said.

Both Muhammad and Malvo, who is to stand trial in the October 14 killing of Linda Franklin in nearby Fairfax County, both could face the death penalty if convicted.

One official said a team from the different agencies in the sniper investigation would work with the prosecutors as a broader national probe of Muhammad's and Malvo's activities continues.

A source close to the investigation said that investigators are trying to determine where Muhammad and Malvo were between a September 14 shooting in Silver Spring, Maryland, and a September 21 shooting in Atlanta, Georgia.

The source said that investigators have been looking at possible routes the two might have taken and is asking enforcement officials along those corridors if they have any unsolved slayings or shootings during this time frame.

Police in Prince George's County, Maryland, have been trying to establish a link between the suspects and a September 15 shooting at a liquor store in Clinton, but a spokesman said authorities haven't come to any conclusion.

-- CNN Correspondent Jeanne Meserve contributed to this report.

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