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Courthouse Power Outage Delays Sniper Trial

October 24, 2003|From Associated Press

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. — A power outage at the courthouse forced officials to postpone Thursday's testimony in the trial of sniper shooting suspect John Allen Muhammad, one day after he gave up acting as his own attorney and rehired his lawyers.

Sheriff's spokeswoman Paula Miller said a faulty electrical transformer knocked out power to the courthouse Thursday.

"The transformer is blown. It's going to be an all-day, all-night repair," Miller said. She said it wasn't clear what caused the transformer to fail but that it posed no security risk.

The trial was expected to resume this morning.

Muhammad, who on Monday stunned the court when he demanded to represent himself just before opening statements in his capital murder trial, changed his mind Wednesday and rehired his defense lawyers.

"You don't know how emotional it is for a lawyer with death on the table to be sidelined in deference to a defendant's right to represent himself," said Muhammad's lawyer, Jonathan Shapiro.

Though the judge said Muhammad represented himself competently, legal experts said he probably damaged his case with his opening statement.

After a half-hour conference at the judge's bench Wednesday morning, Circuit Judge LeRoy F. Millette Jr. told the jury that "Mr. Muhammad no longer believes it is in his best interest to represent himself."

Muhammad, 42, did not spell out his reasons for the switch.

Muhammad is charged in the slaying of Dean Harold Meyers, a civil engineer who was gunned down at a Virginia gas station during a three-week shooting spree that left 10 people dead in the Washington, D.C., area in October 2002.

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