Muhammad lawyers: Malvo prosecutor's words bolster their case

Friday, August 15th 2003, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

MANASSAS, Va. (AP) _ Lawyers for sniper suspect John Allen Muhammad are seeking access to evidence they say will bolster the theory that fellow suspect Lee Boyd Malvo acted of his own accord during last year's shooting spree.

The defense team cites the arguments of Malvo prosecutor Robert F. Horan Jr., who has vigorously denied assertions that Malvo was somehow brainwashed or dominated by Muhammad.

The motions from Muhammad's lawyers, made public Thursday, illustrate the sometimes diverging portrayal by the two prosecuting teams of Malvo and Muhammad, who face trial in the fall.

Malvo, 18, and Muhammad, 42, have been linked to 20 shootings, including 13 deaths, in Virginia, Maryland, Georgia, Alabama, Louisiana and Washington, D.C. Both could face the death penalty if convicted.

Prosecutors in Fairfax County, where Malvo is awaiting trial, have said Malvo bragged about pulling the trigger on several of the shootings and that he talked about an equal partnership in the shootings.

In neighboring Prince William County, where Muhammad awaits trial, prosecutors have said Muhammad was the ``team captain'' of a ``killing team,'' exerting so much influence over the shootings that he deserves the death penalty even if he never pulled the trigger.

The specific evidence sough by Muhammad's lawyers focuses on 23 pages of interviews with associates of Malvo and Muhammad. Defense lawyers are entitled to any exculpatory evidence _ that is, evidence that would be helpful to their client during trial or sentencing.

The interviews have already been given to Malvo's lawyers over the objections of Horan, who argued they were not exculpatory for Malvo. Muhammad's lawyers say Horan's comments demonstrate that much within the 23 pages of interviews is exculpatory for Muhammad and that they should be entitled to it.