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Judge clarifies alibi rules for sniper suspect's trial

From Mike M. Ahlers

John Allen Muhammad, left.
John Allen Muhammad, left.

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Order changing venue Comm. of Va. v. Muhammad (FindLaw, PDF)external link

MANASSAS, Virginia (CNN) -- In a ruling he called a "compromise," the judge in the case of sniper suspect John Allen Muhammad laid out guidelines Tuesday in the event Muhammad wants to use an alibi during his approaching murder trial.

At issue is the second of three counts Muhammad faces in the sniper-style shooting of Harold Dean Meyers last year. The capital murder charge requires prosecutors to prove that in addition to killing Meyers, Muhammad killed at least one other person within a three-year period.

Prosecutors recently submitted the names of 11 other people they believe Muhammad murdered, and they demanded that Muhammad reveal any alibi evidence that he intends to use at trial. Defense attorneys balked, saying that they should have to provide alibis only for those murders that will be cited during the trial.

In his ruling, Judge LeRoy Millette Jr. said Muhammad would have to respond only to demands for alibi evidence once prosecutors specify which crimes they intend to introduce at the trial. But once they have specified which crimes they will cite, Muhammad must provide alibi evidence within 24 hours, he said.

Muhammad does not have to provide alibi evidence if he does not intend to use an alibi at trial, the judge said.

Prosecutors Tuesday said they expect to have in excess of 100 witnesses at the trial, which is expected to last four to six weeks. Millette said he would allow closed-circuit televisions in two locations near the courtroom, so that overflow crowds of news media representatives and family members can watch the proceedings.

Millette said that in addition to 12 jurors, he will allow three alternate jurors, a number that was determined by the size of the jury box.

Muhammad, 42, is charged in the October 9 slaying of the 53-year-old Meyers, 53, at a service station. His alleged accomplice, Lee Boyd Malvo, 18, is facing trial in the October 14 shooting in Fairfax County of Linda Franklin, 47. Both could face the death penalty.

All told, Muhammad and Malvo have been linked to 20 shootings, including 13 killings, in Virginia, Maryland, Georgia, Alabama, Louisiana, and Washington, D.C.

Muhammad's trial is scheduled to begin October 14; Malvo's trial is scheduled to begin on November 10.

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