Judge Rules Against Defendant in Sniper Case

Suspect John Muhammed in the sniper case did not fare well in court today. The Judge ruled that prosecutors don't necessarily have to prove who fired at the victim to get the death penalty.
A judge in the sniper shootings case said Thursday prosecutors will not necessarily have to prove that John Allen Muhammad fired the shot that killed a Maryland man for Muhammad to get the death penalty. Prince William County Circuit Judge LeRoy F. Millette Jr. also ruled that prosecutors do not have to disclose to defense attorneys their theory about whether Muhammad or fellow sniper suspect Lee Boyd Malvo fired the shot. Prosecutors agreed to provide only the barest of the additional information sought by defense attorneys.
Muhammed's lawyers say Malvo was the triggerman and want to argue that is a defense to the death penalty charge based on multiple homicides.
The triggerman issue is an important one. Muhammad, like Malvo, is charged with capital murder under two distinct sections of Virginia law. One section, a new anti-terrorism statute passed after Sept. 11, allows the death penalty even if Muhammad didn't pull the trigger. But that law is untested, and some legal scholars have questioned its constitutionality. The other death-penalty provision relates to multiple murders. While the constitutionality of that law is generally unquestioned, it typically allows only the triggerman to receive the death penalty. Prince William County Commonwealth's Attorney Paul Ebert has said, however, that it is possible for Muhammad to get the death penalty under that section of law even if he didn't pull the trigger.
The judge also ruled against Muhammed in his quest to determine who leaked damaging information about Malvo's post-arrest statements to the Washington Post.
Millette also sided with the Post in quashing subpoenas to police and four reporters who have broken stories in the investigation. Prosecutors filed a motion Wednesday opposing efforts by Muhammad's lawyers asking a judge to investigate the source of leaks by police to the Post. And lawyers for the Post filed a motion seeking to quash subpoenas issued to four of the reporters who have used leaked material in their reporting -- Tom Jackman, Josh White, Maria Glod and Sari Horwitz.

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