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Sniper suspects in court together

Teen in court for hearing in Muhammad's upcoming trial

From Mike Ahlers and Jeanne Meserve
CNN


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Lee Boyd Malvo
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MANASSAS, Virginia (CNN) -- John Allen Muhammad and Lee Boyd Malvo appeared together in court Wednesday, putting them in the same room for the first time since their arrest 11 months ago. But their contact was limited to little more than that.

Malvo, 18, and Muhammad, 42, appeared to exchange a few long looks, but it was unclear if Muhammad looked at Malvo. Malvo's face was expressionless. The two did not speak or gesture to each other.

Malvo appeared on the witness stand for about 10 minutes. He answered a few questions -- his name, and place and date of birth -- before invoking his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination when prosecutor Paul Ebert asked if he knew Muhammad.

He also invoked his constitutional right when asked if he was willing to testify about his knowledge of the events involving Muhammad, an apparent allusion to last year's series of sniper shootings.

Malvo and Muhammad are suspects in the sniper killings of 10 people and the wounding of three others in Maryland, Virginia and Washington, D.C., last fall.

Muhammad stands trial first. The trial is set to start October 14 in Virginia Beach for the October 9, 2002, fatal shooting of Dean Harold Meyers at a Sunoco station in Manassas.

Wednesday's hearing was to decide whether Malvo would testify at Muhammad's trial. Typically, witnesses who plan to use their Fifth Amendment rights are not called, Reuters reported.

"Mr. Malvo has his own trial coming up," one of his attorneys, Craig Cooley, said afterward. "He faces very significant charges, and it is appropriate for us to take every step that protects his right to have a fair trial in his courtroom."

Prince William County Circuit Judge LeRoy Millette Jr. scheduled another hearing for Tuesday. The judge also instructed Ebert to make a list of questions for Malvo so that he can rule whether answering them would be tantamount to self-incrimination for the suspect.

Malvo's continued refusal would preclude him from having to appear as a witness in Muhammad's trial, and the younger man's previous statements to interrogators could then be considered for introduction as possible evidence against Muhammad.

Malvo's trial in the October 14, 2002, killing of Linda Franklin outside a Home Depot in Fairfax County is set to begin November 10 in Chesapeake, near the North Carolina border.

Both trials have been moved about 200 miles from the Washington area after attorneys argued that fair trials would be impossible in an area where there was extensive media coverage of the crimes, and widespread fear of them.

Asked if his client was nervous in his court appearance Wednesday, Cooley said, "I believe there was a degree of trepidation. ... I believe there was a degree of nervousness."

Asked if the two suspects made eye contact with each other, Cooley said, "It did appear to me that both made some eye contact."

Judge allows videotape

The judge also ruled Wednesday that prosecutors can use as evidence a store surveillance camera videotape purporting to show Muhammad at a Big Lots store near the site of a shooting in Ashland, north of Richmond.

The store sells materials similar to those used in a note found near the scene of a shooting at a Ponderosa restaurant in Ashland, said Prince William County prosecutor Richard Conway.

In the hours immediately following the shooting, investigators discovered a note demanding $10 million to end the shooting spree, law enforcement sources have said.

The note was written on lined paper decorated with star-shaped stickers and placed in a Halloween-style bag, police said. The bag was tacked to a tree in woods behind the restaurant, according to police.

A 37-year-old man was seriously wounded October 19, 2002, as he left the restaurant.

Defense attorneys argued against the use of the videotape: "The fleeting nature and the quality is such that it's our position [it will] lead the jury to speculate that the person in the video is Muhammad."

But the judge said it was an issue for the jury to decide.

In a separate action, Millette reversed an earlier ruling saying prosecutors could not use evidence that a Richmond priest had received a phone call from someone claiming to be the sniper.

Prosecutors Wednesday submitted additional evidence that they said established a greater link between the sniper and the call to the priest.

They said a Sharp electronic organizer found in Muhammad's car contained the priest's phone number.


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