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Judge Denies Prosecution's Bid to Postpone Malvo Trial

October 24, 2003|Shweta Govindarajan | Times Staff Writer

FAIRFAX, Va. — A judge Thursday blocked a request by prosecutors to postpone the trial of serial sniper suspect Lee Boyd Malvo so that a mental health expert could have more time to complete his examination.

Fairfax County Circuit Judge Jane Marum Roush rejected the prosecutor's proposal to delay the trial, which is scheduled to begin Nov. 10.

"This really is almost an unstoppable train at this point," Roush said.

The prosecution argued that mental health expert Evan S. Nelson needed another month to examine Malvo, who is expected to enter an insanity plea.

Commonwealth's Atty. Robert F. Horan said Nelson is "eminently qualified, but he is also busy.... It's a vast amount of work that [Nelson] will have to do."

Horan asked that the trial be postponed to Dec. 10.

Defense attorney Craig S. Cooley argued that the prosecution had had more than two months to find a mental health expert and said that the insanity plea was not a "late-blooming determination."

"The Commonwealth has been fully apprised," Cooley said.

Malvo is accused of killing FBI analyst Linda Franklin outside a Home Depot in October 2002 during a three-week shooting spree that terrorized residents in the Washington metropolitan area.

The defense has painted Malvo, who is now 18, as being brainwashed by John Allen Muhammad, 42, a sniper suspect who is being tried in the death of Dean Harold Meyers, who was killed at a Virginia gas station last October.

The trials of both suspects were moved to southeastern Virginia -- Muhammad's case is being heard in Virginia Beach, and Malvo will be tried in nearby Chesapeake -- in an effort to find a more impartial pool of potential jurors.

In denying the motion, Roush said preparations for Malvo's trial were well underway.

"There's no reason why we can't be operating on two tracks," she said, indicating that Nelson's evaluation did not have to be completed before the trial began.

Malvo, unshackled and wearing a forest green jumpsuit, appeared calm during Thursday's preliminary hearing.

Muhammad and Malvo face the death penalty if convicted in the Virginia slayings.

The two, who were arrested a year ago today, are accused of shooting 13 people, 10 fatally, in Maryland, Virginia and the District of Columbia.

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